FARSEEING partners publish in PLOS ONE on falls risk assessment tools

Partners from the University of Bologna and Azienda Sanitaria di Firenze publish in Plos One:

Fall Risk Assessment Tools for Elderly Living in the Community: Can We Do Better?
Pierpaolo Palumbo, Guglielmo Marconi, Luca Palmerini, Stefania Bandinelli, Lorenzo Chiari



Falls are a common, serious threat to the health and self-confidence of the elderly. Assessment of fall risk is an important aspect of effective fall prevention programs.

Objectives and methods

In order to test whether it is possible to outperform current prognostic tools for falls, we analyzed 1010 variables pertaining to mobility collected from 976 elderly subjects (InCHIANTI study). We trained and validated a data-driven model that issues probabilistic predictions about future falls. We benchmarked the model against other fall risk indicators: history of falls, gait speed, Short Physical Performance Battery (Guralnik et al. 1994), and the literature-based fall risk assessment tool FRAT-up (Cattelani et al. 2015). Parsimony in the number of variables included in a tool is often considered a proxy for ease of administration. We studied how constraints on the number of variables affect predictive accuracy.


The proposed model and FRAT-up both attained the same discriminative ability; the area under the Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curve (AUC) for multiple falls was 0.71. They outperformed the other risk scores, which reported AUCs for multiple falls between 0.64 and 0.65. Thus, it appears that both data-driven and literature-based approaches are better at estimating fall risk than commonly used fall risk indicators. The accuracy–parsimony analysis revealed that tools with a small number of predictors (~1–5) were suboptimal. Increasing the number of variables improved the predictive accuracy, reaching a plateau at ~20–30, which we can consider as the best trade-off between accuracy and parsimony. Obtaining the values of these ~20–30 variables does not compromise usability, since they are usually available in comprehensive geriatric assessments.

For full access to the paper please go to: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0146247

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