Although the use of wearable technology to characterize gait disorders in daily life is increasing, there is no consensus on which specific gait bout length should be used to characterize gait. Clinical trialists using daily life gait quality as study outcomes need to understand how gait bout length affects the sensitivity and specificity of measures to discriminate pathological gait as well as the reliability of gait measures across gait bout lengths. We investigated whether Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects how gait characteristics change as bout length changes, and how gait bout length affects the reliability and discriminative ability of gait measures to identify gait impairments in people with PD compared to neurotypical Old Adults (OA). We recruited 29 people with PD and 20 neurotypical OA of similar age for this study. Subjects wore 3 inertial sensors, one on each foot and one over the lumbar spine all day, for 7 days. To investigate which gait bout lengths should be included to extract gait measures, we determined the range of gait bout lengths available across all subjects. To investigate if the effect of bout length on each gait measure is similar or not between subjects with PD and OA, we used a growth curve analysis. For reliability and discriminative ability of each gait measure as a function of gait bout length, we used the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) and area under the curve (AUC), respectively. Ninety percent of subjects walked with a bout length of less than 53 strides during the week, and the majority (>50%) of gait bouts consisted of less than 12 strides. Although bout length affected all gait measures, the effects depended on the specific measure and sometimes differed for PD versus OA. Specifically, people with PD did not increase/decrease cadence and swing duration with bout length in the same way as OA. ICC and AUC characteristics tended to be larger for shorter than longer gait bouts. Our findings suggest that PD interferes with the scaling of cadence and swing duration with gait bout length. Whereas control subjects gradually increased cadence and decreased swing duration as bout length increased, participants with PD started with higher than normal cadence and shorter than normal stride duration for the smallest bouts, and cadence and stride duration changed little as bout length increased, so differences between PD and OA disappeared for the longer bout lengths. Gait measures extracted from shorter bouts are more common, more reliable, and more discriminative, suggesting that shorter gait bouts should be used to extract potential digital biomarkers for people with PD.
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