Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that can affect its sufferers in different ways and at different rates. Tracking how a patient progresses is a critical part of MS management, a procedure that can benefit from greater objective analysis. Turns out that today’s computer tablets feature technologies such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, and touchscreens that when combined can offer pretty good MS assessment capabilities.
Researchers at Cleveland Clinic just reported in Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) that they used an Apple iPad as a tool to perform an array of performance tests relevant to MS assessment. By attaching the iPad to the back of a patient while having her walk and balance, the app within provides precise data on posture. A specially built attachment that sits on the top of the iPad’s screen allows for dexterity testing using metal pegs. The patient moves pegs between different holes as requested by a therapist and the iPad software tracks the timing of the pegs being moved, translating that into an objective evaluation of dexterity. There is also an eye test included that analyzes low contrast vision and a simple cognitive processing test to get an idea of how well the brain is working.
From the study abstract:
We report a new test, the Multiple Sclerosis Performance Test (MSPT), which represents a new approach to quantifying MS related disability. The MSPT takes advantage of advances in computer technology, information technology, biomechanics, and clinical measurement science. The resulting MSPT represents a computer-based platform for precise, valid measurement of MS severity. Based on, but extending the Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite (MSFC), the MSPT provides precise, quantitative data on walking speed, balance, manual dexterity, visual function, and cognitive processing speed. The MSPT was tested by 51 MS patients and 49 healthy controls (HC). MSPT scores were highly reproducible, correlated strongly with technician-administered test scores, discriminated MS from HC and severe from mild MS, and correlated with patient reported outcomes. Measures of reliability, sensitivity, and clinical meaning for MSPT scores were favorable compared with technician-based testing. The MSPT is a potentially transformative approach for collecting MS disability outcome data for patient care and research.