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01-12-2020 | Review | Uitgave 1/2020 Open Access

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 1/2020

Walking and weakness in children: a narrative review of gait and functional ambulation in paediatric neuromuscular disease

Tijdschrift:
Journal of Foot and Ankle Research > Uitgave 1/2020
Auteurs:
Rachel A. Kennedy, Kate Carroll, Jennifer L. McGinley, Kade L. Paterson
Belangrijke opmerkingen

Supplementary information

Supplementary information accompanies this paper at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13047-020-0378-2.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Background

Neuromuscular diseases (NMD) include disorders affecting the anterior horn cells, peripheral nerves, neuromuscular junction and muscles, are often progressive and exhibit a wide range of impairment and disability in affected individuals. Relatively rare, in children these diseases include spinal muscular atrophy (SMA; 1 in 10–11,000) [ 1], Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT; 1 in 2.5–10,000) [ 2] and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD; 1 in 3.5–10,0000) [ 3]. Gait and functional ambulation are important markers of disease and disability in paediatric NMD. It has been proposed that gait velocity or self-selected walking speed is the 6th vital sign of human function and is a predictor of overall health and disability [ 4, 5]. Yet, human gait is a complex activity and gait speed alone does not reflect all contributing factors and influences on gait [ 4, 5]. Functional ambulation relates gait function and speed to mobility-related activities of daily living in a person’s own environment [ 6]. Thus, the assessment of gait and functional ambulation in paediatric NMD must take in to consideration the many constructs that contribute to these complex tasks, including individual impairments, the task required, and the environment in which these are performed.
Weakness is the primary impairment in NMD, often presenting in childhood and adversely affecting gait and functional ambulation. Additionally, muscle tightness, contracture, musculoskeletal deformities, poor standing balance and reduced endurance, all arising from weakness, affect functional ambulatory tasks such as standing and walking. Patterns of weakness differ depending on the NMD, some affecting more proximal muscles (e.g. DMD) and others more distal muscles (e.g. CMT). For the majority of NMD of childhood, disease is progressive leading to increasing weakness and disability across the lifespan. The degree of disability in childhood NMD is variable ranging from children who are extremely weak and unable to sit (e.g. SMA type 1) to those with milder weakness who remain ambulant, albeit with gait difficulties including foot drop, poor balance and reduced gait speed (e.g. CMT, SMA type 3 and ambulant boys with DMD).
Gait dysfunction has important implications for function in everyday life. Ambulant children with NMD, commonly report problems with walking, poor balance, frequent trips and falls, increased fatigue and difficulty keeping up with peers [ 711]. In this context, it is useful to consider the assessment of gait and functional ambulation in ambulant children with NMD in terms of the International Classification of Function, Health and Disability (ICF) [ 12] (Fig.  1). Gait speed is an indicator of impairment. However, a clinically meaningful assessment also needs to consider limitations to the child’s activities, restrictions to participation, environmental and intrinsic personal factors. Activity limitations may include difficulty walking longer distances; problems with balance may affect steadiness and safety when walking; and ambulatory performance may be affected by changes in environmental conditions, for example walking over uneven ground or up and down steps. The use of gait or mobility aids will also affect function and low walking confidence or fear of falling may restrict participation opportunities. Assessments of functional ambulation need to take into account all of these factors. There is no recognised single assessment tool of functional ambulation that encompasses all factors. However, there are several clinical assessments that collectively illustrate the effect of disease and disability on gait and function in children with NMD. The aim of this paper is to review assessments of gait and functional ambulation in paediatric NMD.

Method

This narrative review considered the literature relating to gait and functional ambulation in children and adolescents with neuromuscular disease. Literature was searched in Ovid Medline, Embase and PubMed from 1946 up to and including October 2019. Keywords and search terms included gait, walk*, ambul*, locomotion, functional ambul*, paed*, pediatr*, child*, adoles*, neuromuscular disease, Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, peripheral neuropathy not diabetes, spinal muscular atrophy, myopathy, Pompe, myotonic dystrophy, collagen VI disorders, fascioscapulohumeral dystrophy or FSHD. Only full-text human studies in English were considered (see Supplementary material for example of search strategy). Additionally, hand searching of reference lists and conference abstracts was undertaken to ensure relevant publications were included. Exclusion criteria included studies of non-ambulant participants, primary studies of physical activity and activity monitoring that did not include assessments of gait or functional ambulation, and studies comprised primarily of adults (aged > 18 years).

Results and discussion

Studies included

Review of the literature resulted in 52 papers describing gait and functional ambulation in over eight neuromuscular diseases of childhood including CMT (15 papers), Becker and Duchenne muscular dystrophies (B/DMD) (21 papers), SMA (7 papers), congenital myotonic dystrophy (CMD) (2 papers), fascioscapulohumeral dystrophy (FSHD) (1 paper), Pompe disease (1 paper), collagen VI disorders (1 paper) and other mixed cohorts (4 papers) (Table  1). Two papers were systematic reviews of gait in CMT [ 18] and DMD [ 28]. Several papers described the same or similar cohorts, either cross-sectional and longitudinal studies [ 11, 16, 20, 21, 34, 35, 42] or a descriptive papers of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) [ 24, 25, 38, 39]. The median age of participants in the studies was 9.0 years and sample sizes ranged from 4 to 520. Some studies included adult participants and were included despite the lack of age-related sub-analysis [ 9, 10, 26, 36, 4852, 56, 57, 60] or if there were no paediatric studies in a specific disease [ 55].
Table 1
Review papers including disease, author, study type, sample age and size, outcome measures and main findings
Disease
Study type
Author
Sample size
Age
years
mean (SD)
Outcome measures
Gait speed
m/s
mean (SD)
6MWD
m
mean (SD)
10 m walk/run
s
mean (SD)
Other assessments
CMT
Cross-sectional, observational
Estilow et al. 2019 [ 13]
CMT n = 520
10.9 (4.4)
Balance (BOT-2)
     
↓ balance
Mean (SD)
z-score − 3.25 (2.9)
Cross-sectional, case-controlled observational Kennedy et al. 2019 [ 14]
CMT n = 50
TD n = 50
CMT 12.5 (3.9)
TD 12.5 (3.9)
6MWT
Balance (BOT-2)Walk-12
 
↓ 6MWD
CMT 507.7 (137.3)
TD 643.3 (75.6);
p < 0.001
Norm to height
CMT 341.9 (95.7)
TD 429.4 (56.0);
p < 0.001
 
↓ balance (BOT-2 /37) median (IQR)
CMT 19 (9)
TD 32 (3)
p < 0.001
Walk-12 mean score 24.7% (SD 19) 95% CI [19.3, 30.2]
n = 49
Longitudinal observational Baptista et al. 2019 [ 15]
CMT n = 40
TD n = 49
CMT 11.45 (3.50)
TD 10.62 (3.10)
10 m walk test
(baseline)
   
Slower 10 m walk
Median (25th; 75th)
CMT 7.90 (6.67;8.92)
TD 7.25 (5.60; 8.56);
p ≤ 0.05
 
Cross-sectional, case-controlled observational Kennedy et al. 2018 [ 11] b1
CMT n = 30
TD n = 30
CMT 11.5 (3.7)
TD 11.5 (3.7)
Gait speed
6MWT
10 m walk/run ( n = 26)
Balance (BOT-2)
Slower speed
CMT 1.19 (0.16)
TD 1.32 (0.14);
p < 0.001
↓ 6MWD
CMT 557 (73)
TD 615 (71);
p < 0.001
Slower 10 m walk/run
CMT 3.8 (1.0)
TD 2.9 (0.3);
p < 0.001
↓ balance (BOT-2 /37) Median (IQR)
CMT 25.5 (4–34)
TD 32 (26–35)
p < 0.001
Longitudinal cohort Kennedy et al. 2017 [ 16] b1
CMT n = 27
Baseline 11.1 (3.7)
12 months 12.2 (3.7)
Gait speed non−/norm
6MWT non−/norm
Balance (BOT-2)
Functional mobility scale (FMS)
Slower norm speed over 12 months
Baseline 1.18 (0.16)
12 months 1.15 (0.14);
p = 0.22
Baseline 0.43 (0.07)
12 months 0.41 (0.05); p = 0.04
↓ norm 6MWD over 12 months
Baseline 556 (73.7)
12 months 555 (80.2);
p = 0.91
Baseline 720 (117)
12 months 690 (121); p = 0.006
 
No change in balance over 12 months (BOT-2 /37)
Baseline 22.6 (9.4)
12 months 23.3 (8.7)
p = 0.76
FMS 78% reported reduced ambulatory function
Cross-sectional, observational cohort
Cornett et al. (2016) [ 17]
CMT n = 520
10.9 (4.4)
6MWT
 
↓ 6MWD in CMT genotypes
6MWD z-scores reduced in CMT2A, CMT1B, CMT4C compared with CMT1A and CMTX1;
p < 0.05
6MWD z-scores reduced in CMT2A and CMT4C compared with CMT1B; p < 0.05
   
Systematic review
Kennedy et al. (2016) [ 18]
7 eligible studies
Mean 13
Range 2–52
Gait speed
Slower speed
Range 0.50–1.25
     
Cross-sectional, observational
Ounpuu et al. (2013) [ 19]
CMT n = 33
TD database
CMT 11.9 (3.6)
TD 12.0 (3.0)
Gait speed
Slower speed dependent on gait dysfunction
CMT toe walker 1.17 [0.21]
CMT “typical” 1.11 [0.16] a
CMT foot drop 1.03 [0.21] a
TD control 1.27 [0.11];
p < 0.001 a compared with TD
     
Longitudinal Ferrarin et al. (2013) [ 20] b2
CMT n = 16
13.2 (2.9)
Gait speed
Non-significant changes in speed with large inter-subject variability
     
Cross-sectional, case-controlled observational
Ferrarin et al. (2012) [ 21] b2
CMT n = 21
TD n = 18
CMT 11.9 (2.8) yo
TD 11.0 (3.3) yo
Gait speed
Slower norm speed
CMT1A foot drop and push-off deficit 69 [9]
TD 77 [7];
p < 0.05
Norm to height
     
Cross-sectional observational
Pagliano et al. (2011) [ 22]
n = 21
11.9 (2.8) range 6–17
Walk-12
     
Walk-12
Mean 12.4% (SD 9.5) Range 0–33
RCT
Rose et al. (2010) [ 23] a
CMT treatment group n = 15
CMT placebo group n = 15
CMT treatment 10 [4] yo
CMT placebo 11 [3] yo
Gait speed
CMT treatment group 0.50 [0.10]
CMT placebo group
0.60 [0.50]
     
RCT
Burns et al. (2009a) [ 24] b3
n = 81
[ n = 53 for gait data; n = 65 for 6MWT data]
8.3 (3.5)
Gait speed
6MWT
Baseline
CMT treatment group 1.19 (0.16)
CMT placebo group 1.24 (0.19)
Baseline
CMT treatment group 519 (86)
CMT placebo group
521 (98)
   
Cross-sectional, observational
Burns et al. (2009b) [ 25] b3
n = 81
[ n = 53 for gait data; n = 65 for 6MWT data]
8.3 (3.5)
Gait speed
6MWT
CMT 2–6 yo 1.13 (0.25)
CMT 7–11 yo 1.25 (0.12)
CMT 12–16 yo 1.23 (0.14)
CMT 2–6 yo 494.3 (70.6) 385–640
CMT 7–11 yo 526.8 (83.1) 250–640
CMT 12–16 yo 518.7 (150.2) 110–710
   
Cross-sectional, observational
Newman et al. (2007) [ 26] a
n = 16
TD database n = 40
CMT 20.1 (13)
TD 18.4 (8.5)
Gait speed
Slower speed
CMT 1.12 (0.17)
TD controls 1.31 (0.13);
p < 0.001
     
DMD
Longitudinal
Fowler et al. (2018) [ 27]
n = 42
7.9 (2.9)
Range 4.1–16.1
10 m walk/run test
StepWatch Activity monitoring
Baseline speed 1.71 (0.68) m/s as measured by 10 m walk/run
 
Baseline 5.85 s derived from reported gait speed
Significant ↓ average strides per day with ↑ age; per age group average strides per day ↑ for 4-7yo, plateau for 8-10yo and ↓ >10yo
Systematic review of gait
Goudriaan et al. (2018) [ 28]
9 eligible studies
 
Gait speed calculated from 6 studies
Slower speed compared to TD
Standardised mean difference (effect size) ranging from 1.26 to 3.20
     
RCT
Victor et al. (2017) [ 29]
n = 331
9.6 (1.92)
6MWT
10 m walk/run
 
Baseline
329.6 (55.47)
Baseline
6.8 (1.97)
 
Cross-sectional observational
case controlled
Alfano et al. (2017) [ 30]
DMD n = 72
TD n = 599
DMD range 4–12
TD range 4–14
100 m timed test
     
Slower timed 100 m across all ages compared to TD; p < 0.01
DMD times improve up to 6 years and then decline from 7 years
Cross-sectional, observational case controlled
Ropars et al. (2016) [ 31]
DMD n = 16
TD n = 15
DMD 8.67 (2.04)
TD 9.39 (2.21)
Gait speed
Slower speed compared to TD
DMD 0.78 (0.18)
TD 1.21 (0.13);
p < 0.001
     
Cross-sectional observational case-controlled
Davidson et al. (2015) [ 32]
DMD n = 16
TD n = 13
DMD 9.0 (2.1)
TD 9.0 (2.4)
6MWT
StepWatch Activity monitoring
 
↓ 6MWD compared to TD
DMD 387 (86)
TD 598 (63);
p < 0.005
 
↓ steps and high activity time and ↑ inactive time compared to TD
Steps
DMD 5138 (2500)
TD 7239 (2621);
p = 0.044
High activity time
DMD 25 (17)
TD 53 (34) min
p = 0.018
Inactive time
DMD 1103 (134) min
TD 1016 [ 33] min;
p = 0.036
Longitudinal observational
Pane et al. (2014) [ 34] b4
n = 96
Baseline
8.3 (2.3)
6MWT
 
↓ 6MWD 3 years
− 15.8 (77.3) at 12 months, − 58.9 (125.7) at 24 months and − 104.22 (146.2) at 36 months
   
Longitudinal observational
Mazzone et al. (2013) [ 35] b4
n = 113
8.2
4.1–17.0
6MWT
 
↓ 6MWD 2 years
 22.7 (SD 81.0) 1st year − 64.7 (SD 123.1) 2nd year
   
Longitudinal observational
Henricson et al. (2013a) [ 36]
n = 340
Baseline range
2–28
10 m walk/run
   
Slower 10 m walk/run with ↑ age
No participant aged > 18 years able to walk
 
Longitudinal observational, case-controlled
Henricson et al. (2013b) [ 37]
DMD n = 24
TD n = 36
1 year
DMD n = 13
TD n = 18
DMD 7.9 (2.3)
TD 8.7 (2.6)
6MWT
10 m walk/run
 
Baseline ↓ 6MWD
DMD 369.5 (79.3)
TD 613.3 (73.6) p < 0.001
MCID 26.4 m
1 year change DMD > MCID
DMD − 53.67 (SE 25.96) p = 0.027
TD 16.5 (SE 11.46)
Baseline ↓time
DMD 1.68 (0.56)
TD 3.32 (0.36)
p < 0.001
MCID 0.19 s
1 year change DMD > MCID
DMD − 0.25 (SE 0.68) p = 0.007
TD 0.33 (SE 0.07) p < 0.001
 
Observational study McDonald et al. (2013a) [ 38]
n = 174
8.5 (2.6)
6MWT
10 m walk/run
 
358 (95)
MCID 28.5–31.7 m
7.4 (4.3)
MCID 2.3–1.4 s
 
Longitudinal observational study
McDonald et al. (2013b) [ 39]
n = 57
8.3 (2.33)
6MWT
10 m walk/run
 
↓ 6MWD 48 weeks
Baseline 361.1 (87.5)
Week 48,317.4 (152.3)
Slower 10 m walk/run with ↑ age
Baseline
< 7yo 4.8 (0.86)
> 7yo 7.1 (2.80)
 
Longitudinal observational study
Bello et al. (2012) [ 40]
n = 80
2 genotypes
Group 1 = 57
Group 2 = 23
8.3 (2.7)
6MWT
 
↓ 6MWD 12 months, associated with age ( r = − 0.38 p = 0.013), baseline 6MWD ( r = 0.73, p < 0.001 ) and genotype ( p = 0.029)
Baseline
Gp 1368 (86)
Gp 2387 (67)
12 months
Gp 1360 (98)
Gp 2343 (124)
   
Cross-sectional, observational case controlled
Doglio et al. (2011) [ 41]
DMD n = 15
TD n = 9
DMD 6.1 (0.7)
TD 7.5 (1.2)
Gait speed
10 m walk
Speed in younger boys with DMD does not differ to TD
DMD 1.06 (0.17)
TD 1.07 (0.18)
NS
 
Slower 10 m walk
DMD 4.4 (3.2)
TD 3.4 (0.6)
p < 0.05
 
Longitudinal observational study
Mazzone et al. (2011) [ 42] b4
n = 106
( n = 100 10 m walk/run)
Baseline
8.3 (2.3)
10 m walk/run
6MWT
 
↓ 6MWD 12 months, > in older boys
≤ 7 yo − 7.8 (63.9)
> 7 yo − 42.3 (73.9)
All − 25.8 (74.3);
p = 0.01
(≤7yo vs > 7yo)
Slower 10 m walk/run in older boys
≤ 7 yo 0.3 (3.1)
> 7 yo 1.3 (3.5)
All 1.0 (3.4)
p = 0.11 ≤ 7yo vs >7yo
 
Cross-sectional observational study
Mazzone et al. (2010) [ 43]
n = 112
8.18 (2.3)
10 m walk/run
6MWT
 
Range 127–560.6
Range 3–15
 
Cross-sectional observational case controlled
McDonald et al. (2010) [ 44]
DMD n = 21
TD n = 34
Median [range]
DMD 8 [5–12]
TD 9 [4–12]
6MWT
 
↓ 6MWD compared to TD
DMD 366 (83)
TD 621 (68);
p < 0.001
   
Cross-sectional observational case controlled
Gaudreault et al. (2010) [ 8]
DMD n = 11
TD n = 14
DMD 9.2 (2.6)
TD 9.7 (1.9)
Gait speed
Slower speed
DMD 0.62 (0.12)
TD 1.02 (0.13)
p < 0.001
     
Cross-sectional, observational case controlled
D’Angelo et al. (2009) [ 45]
DMD n = 21
TD n = 10
DMD 7.0 (2.4)
TD 7.4 (1.2)
Gait speed
Trend to slower norm speed
DMD 0.81 (0.14)
TD 0.90 (0.13)
norm to height; NS
     
RCT
Skura et al. (2008) [ 46]
n = 15
Baseline
8.4 (1.46)
30 ft timed walk/run test
   
Baseline 30 ft timed run
5.6 (1.3)
 
 
RCT
Beenakker et al. (2005) [ 47]
n = 16
Baseline
6.25 (0.93)
Range 5–8
9 m run
   
Baseline speed 1.78 m/s
= 5.06 s over 9 m
 
SMA
Pilot study
Bartels et al. (2019) [ 48]
n = 4
26.2; range 10–37
Endurance shuttle walk test (ESWT)
     
ESWT feasible measure of fatigability during walking in SMA3
Longitudinal, observational
Montes et al. (2018) [ 10]
n = 73
13.5 (12.4) range 2.6–49.1
6MWT
 
Baseline SMA3a 257.1 (107.3)
SMA3b 390.2 (144.0)
Mean rate of change − 7.8 m/year; p = 0.009
Age affects rate of change
<  6 yrs.: 9.8 m/ year; 6–10 yrs.: − 7.9 m/year; 11–19 yrs.: − 20.8 m/year; > 20 yres: − 9.7 m/year; p = 0.005
   
Cross-sectional, observational
Montes et al. (2014) [ 49]
n = 10
31.2; range, 9–49
6MWT
 
273.4 (45.7); range, 53–492
   
Dunaway et al. (2014) [ 50]
n = 15
28.7; range 10–49
10 m walk/run
6MWT
Timed up and go (TUG)
 
362.13 (29.22)
7.44 (0.84)
TUG
12.97 (2.49) s;
Moderate to good correlation between TUG and 10 m walk/run ( r = 0.691; p = 0.009) and 6MWT ( r = − 0.514; p < 0.05)
Longitudinal observational study
Mazzone et al. (2013) [ 51] a
n = 38
14.07 (12.43) 3.4–49.3
6MWT
 
No change in 6MWD 12 months
Baseline 294.91 (127)
12 months 293.4 (141)
   
Cross-sectional, case controlled
Montes et al. (2011) [ 9]
SMA3 n = 9
TD n = 9
22
4–49 years
6MWT
 
↓ 6MWD
SMA3 343 m (range 267–449)
TD 601 m (range 490–733)
   
Cross-sectional observational
Montes et al. (2010) [ 52]
n = 18
15.3(13.3)
6MWT
10 m walk/run
 
288.9 (161.9)
Strong correlation between 6MWT and 10 m walk/run ( r = − 0.87; p < 0.0001)
Median (25th, 75th %)
8.4 (5.4,10.7)
 
CMD
Cross-sectional observational
Hayes et al. (2018) [ 53]
n = 25
7.76 (3.02) 3.25–13.22
10 m self-selected walk speed
6MWT
StepWatch activity monitoring
0.97 (0.26) 0.52–1.36
325.23 (109.85)
150–604
 
↓ physical activity
Time inactive, % 80.85 (9.15) Low steps, % 33.19 (13.11) Medium steps, % 51.15 (9.80) High steps, % 16.01 (10.27)
Cross-sectional observational case-controlled
Johnson et al. (2016) [ 54]
CMD n = 41
(6MWT n = 33)
TD n = 29
CMD 6.8 (3.3)
TD 9.1 (3.1)
6MWT
 
↓ 6MWD
CMD 258.3 m (SD 176)
TD 568.3 m (SD 73.2);
p < 0.001
   
FSHD
Observational test-retest reliability study
Eichinger et al. (2017) [ 55] a
n = 86
49.1 (15.2) 18–84
6MWT
 
404.3 (123.9); Reliability ICC = 0.99 ( n = 25)
Minimal detectable change (MDC95) 34.3
   
Late onset Pompe
Observational cross-sectional
McIntosh et al. (2015) [ 56] a
n = 22
Gender age-matched reference data
48.6 (range 13–72)
Gait speed
6MWT
10 m fast walk test
1.02 (0.30)
Variable performance ranging from 39.4 to 110% predicted
10 m fast walk
1.41 (0.42) m/s = 7.09 s
 
Collagen VI
Longitudinal observational
Meilleur et al. (2015) [ 57] a
n = 32
( n = 11 for 10 m walk/run and 6MWT)
Range 4.8–21.2
6MWT
10 m walk/run
 
338.27 (126.65) 144–600
10 m walk
8.6 (3.5) 4.0–15.8
 
NMD
(mixed)
Cross-sectional observational
Witherspoon et al. (2019) [ 58] c
n = 77
10.1 ± 2.93
6MWT
2MWT
 
442.1 (121.6)
 
2MWD = 149.8 (40.3) m
Strong correlation 2MWD and 6MWD
r  = 0.90, p  < 0.01
Cross-sectional observational
Kaya et al. (2015) [ 59]
n = 40
DMD = 20
PN d = 20
DMD 9.05 (3.1)
PN 12.95 (3.3)
6MWT
TUG
 
DMD 349.70 (77.18)
PN 358.85 (75.07)
NS
 
TUG
DMD 7.79 (1.54) s
PN 10.13 (2.63) s
p < 0.01
Cross-sectional observational
Montes et al. (2013) [ 60] a e
n = 114
21.3 (range 4–64)
6MWT
(% predicted of normative reference data)
 
Mean 61.9%
DMD/BMD 65.1%
SMA 52.0%
myasthenia gravis 66.3%
GLUT1 deficiency/mitochondrial disorders 63.9%
   
Cross-sectional observational
Holtebekk (2013) [ 61] f
n = 17
Median (IQR) 14.2 (3.6)
6MWT
Activity monitoring SenseWear Armband
 
Median (IQR) 485 (131)
 
Activity monitor
Moderate physical activity
Median (IQR) 2.4 (1.9) hours/weekday
1.1 (3.3) hours/weekend day
Mean and standard deviation (SD) unless otherwise stated; IQR = inter-quartile rank; Main findings in bold
Abbreviations: 6MWT six-minute walk test, 6MWD six-minute walk distance, BMD Becker muscular dystrophy, BOT-2 Bruininks-Oseretsky Test, 2nd Edition, CMT Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, CMD Congenital myotonic dystrophy, DMD Duchenne muscular dystrophy, ESWT Endurance shuttle walk test, FMS Functional Mobility Scale, FSHD fascioscapulohumeral dystrophy, LGMD limb girdle muscular dystrophy, NMD neuromuscular disease, norm norm, PN peripheral neuropathies, SMA spinal muscular atrophy
aNelson - included adult participants with no sub analysis; McIntosh – 2 of 22 subjects aged ≤18 years, no sub-analysis; Mazzone - included adult participants with no sub analysis; Eichinger – one 18-year-old participant, all others adults with no sub-analysis; Meilleur - included adult participants with no sub analysis; Montes - included adult participants with no sub analysis
b same data sets
cCollagen VI-related dystrophy (COL6-RD), laminin alpha 2-related dystrophy (LAMA2-RD), limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD), and RYR1-related myopathies (RYR1-RM), and other
dPN = peripheral neuropathies including CMT/hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy (HMSN), motor neuropathy (MN) and polyneuropathy (PNP)
eSpinal muscular atrophy ( n = 23), Duchenne/Becker muscular dystrophy ( n = 29), myasthenia gravis ( n = 12), or an energy failure syndrome (glucose transporter protein type 1 [GLUT1] deficiency/mitochondrial disorders) ( n = 50)
fCMT n = 4, Congenital myopathy n = 2, LGMD 2I n = 8, BMD n = 1, Unspecified n = 2

Assessments of gait and functional ambulation

Several assessments of gait and functional ambulation in paediatric NMD were identified and discussed in the literature. These included timed function tests, for example the 10 m walk and/or run test [ 62, 63], the six-minute walk test (6MWT) [ 64] and 100 m timed test [ 30]. Tests of dynamic balance in walking, including the balance subset of the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test, 2nd edition (BOT-2) [ 65] and the timed up and go (TUG) [ 66], were considered due to the impact of balance on gait and function. If studies of gait or functional ambulation included activity monitoring, these were reported as an adjunct to specific assessments of gait, however we did not specifically search for studies of activity monitoring alone. We also included descriptive scales or questionnaires that characterised gait-related function, including the Functional Mobility Scale (FMS) [ 67] and the Walk-12 scale [ 68].

Gait speed

For this review we focused on gait speed in terms of its clinical utility as an indicator of health and disability [ 4, 5]. Assessment of gait speed was diverse with a range of reported methodologies including 3-D gait analysis, electronic walkway and timed distance. Typically, gait is assessed at natural self-selected steady walking pace, however some studies reported gait speed as calculated from the 10 m walk/run, usually a fast walk or run test [ 27, 56]. Gait speed was described most often in studies of children with CMT (ten of fifteen papers), a reflection of the use of clinical gait analysis in preparation for orthopaedic surgery for the management of foot deformities common in CMT [ 11, 16, 1821, 2326]. Children with CMT walked more slowly than their typically developing peers and a decline in gait speed over time was evident when growth was accounted for by normalising gait speed to height or leg length [ 16]. Greater disability in children with CMT was reflected in slower gait speed in more severely affected children [ 19].
Younger boys (< 7 years) with DMD did not walk significantly slower than their typically developing peers [ 41, 45]. However, boys older than 8 years with DMD were significantly slower than their peers, an indicator of the relentless and degenerative muscle disease [ 8, 31]. The study by Doglio et al. (2011) was the only study to normalise gait speed to height when comparing boys with DMD to TD controls. Normalising gait parameters is an important consideration for boys with DMD who are typically treated with corticosteroids, of which growth retardation is a known side-effect. Therefore, steroid-treated boys with DMD tend to be smaller than their age-matched, steroid naïve and non-affected peers [ 69]. Normalisation to height and/or leg length is an important to factor when reporting gait speed in paediatric populations [ 70, 71].
Gait speed was reported in two other studies in children with CMD [ 53] and a mixed aged study of children and adults with late-onset Pompe disease [ 56]. Whilst neither study included unaffected controls, the reported gait speed for both cohorts was considerably slower than reported normative reference data [ 72].

Six-minute walk test

The 6MWT is a valid and reliable standardised test of physical endurance in boys with DMD [ 38]. A test of ambulatory capacity, the 6MWT measures distance walked in six minutes. Developed from the American Thoracic Society and FDA-approved 6MWT [ 64], the test has been modified for children with NMD with the addition of a safety chaser and standardised verbal encouragement [ 44]. The utility of the 6MWT in paediatric NMD clinical research is evident with over half of the studies included in this review reporting its use [ 911, 14, 16, 17, 24, 25, 29, 3235, 3740, 4244, 5061] (Table 1). Typical walkway distances were reported as 25 m however some studies used walkways as short as 10 m [ 24, 25]. This may reduce distance walked due to more frequent turns resulting in greater time spent decelerating and less time at a fast walking pace [ 73].
Six-minute walk distance (6MWD) is reduced in children and adolescents with NMD when compared to typically developing controls or normative reference data. In boys with DMD and children with SMA type 3 and CMT, 6MWD declines with increasing age, reflecting disease progression and increasing disability [ 10, 16, 34, 35, 37, 39, 40]. Normalisation of 6MWD to height or leg length, accounts for linear growth across age groups and in longitudinal studies, and is an important factor when determining the effect of disease on function [ 16]. Burns and colleagues (2009), demonstrated a trend to shorter 6MWD in older children [ 25]. In a further study over 12 months, normalisation of 6MWD accounting for growth revealed a decline in ambulatory capacity in children with CMT [ 16]. Genotype also affects ambulatory capacity in the 6MWT; children with milder subtypes of CMT in a large study of 520 participants, walked further than children with more severe subtypes [ 17]. Deterioration in ambulatory capacity over time was also affected by genotype in 80 boys with DMD [ 40]. Several studies have reported rates of change, either minimally clinically important difference (MCID) or minimal detectable change (MDC) for 6MWD in different NMD including DMD (MCID 26.4–31.7 m; − 53.67 change over 12 months) [ 37, 38], SMA (− 7.9 to − 9.7 m over 12 months) [ 10] and FSHD (MDC95 34.3 m) [ 55]. Measures of rate of change, MCID or MCD are useful for clinicians when comparing the ambulatory function of the children in their own clinical practice.

Timed function tests – 10 m walk/run

The timed 10 m walk/run is widely used to assess function in NMD and is a sensitive measure of disease progression in ambulant boys with DMD [ 62, 74, 75]. In clinical practice, the timed 10 m walk/run is conducted as a fast walk or run dependent on the abilities of the child. However, in the literature there were differences noted between whether the test was conducted as a timed walk [ 15, 41, 56, 57] or run, and earlier studies conducted the test over 30 ft or 9 m [ 46, 47]. Timed 10 m walk/run was most often reported in boys with DMD [ 27, 29, 3639, 4143, 46, 47] reflecting its common use as a predictor of disease in DMD and less frequently in studies of CMT, SMA, Pompe and Collagen VI [ 11, 15, 50, 52, 56, 57]. Across all NMDs, 10 m walk/run times were slower compared to controls or reported normative reference ranges. Disease progression in boys with DMD was demonstrated with several studies reporting slower speed over 10 m in boys older than 7 years [ 36, 39, 42].

Other assessments

Assessments of balance, endurance and alternative distance and timed tests (100 m timed walk and two-minute walk test) were reported less frequently. The balance subset of the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, 2nd Ed (BOT-2, NCS Pearson, Upper Saddle River, NJ, USA) is a ten-item standardised test of balance in standing and walking [ 65]. It is widely used in paediatric CMT having been incorporated into the disease-specific CMT Pediatric Scale (CMTPedS) [ 76]. Balance in children with CMT was significantly reduced when compared to age- and gender-matched controls and normative reference data [ 11, 13, 14]. However, over 12 months’, balance did not significantly deteriorate, indicative of the relatively slow progression of neuropathy in children with CMT [ 16]. Reduced balance (BOT-2) was associated with wider base of support and greater step-to-step variability in the gait of children with CMT [ 11].
The TUG was reported in two studies and is a valid, reliable and responsive measure of gait-related balance in children with physical disabilities [ 50, 59, 77, 78]. It measures the time taken to stand from a seated position, walk 3 m, turn around and return to a seated position. Dunaway and colleagues (2014) demonstrated an association between the TUG, slower 10 m walk/run time and shorter 6MWD in children with SMA type 3 [ 50]. In a further study comparing older children with peripheral neuropathies (PN) of mixed origin to younger boys with DMD, TUG times were longer in the children with mixed PN [ 59]. The authors attributed the difference between groups to the effects of distal versus proximal weakness patterns, however it may have also been due to the PN group being older and therefore likely to be more affected by their disease. Both the BOT-2 and the TUG are useful assessments of gait-related balance and inform clinical interpretation of the effects of NMD on gait and function.
Alternatives to the 6MWT were reported in two studies. Alfano and colleagues (2017) reported the development and validation of a 100 m timed test in boys with DMD as an assessment of functional ambulatory performance. Their study included the establishment of typically developing normative reference data [ 30]. Findings from this study indicated that performance on the 100 m timed test improved up to the age of 7 years before plateauing and declining with increasing age [ 30]. This finding is similar to the 10 m walk/run and the 6MWT in boys with DMD and is reflective of disease progression [ 36, 39, 40, 42]. A second study in children with mixed NMD, reported a two-minute walk distance (2MWD) derived from the two-minute mark of the standard 6MWT, and found a strong correlation between 2MWD and 6MWD [ 58]. Both the 100 m timed test and the 2MWT may offer realistic alternatives to the longer 6MWT, especially in children with behavioural and attentional problems who may find the time and testing constraints of six minutes challenging.
The 6MWT and more recently the 100 m timed test and 2MWT, are all described as tests of physical endurance in paediatric NMD and as surrogate measures of physical fatigue in DMD, SMA and CMT [ 9, 25, 44]. Bartels and colleagues (2019) have recently described the concept of fatigability in SMA, that is, “ the inability to perform prolonged repetitive tasks during activities of daily life”, and have developed a group of endurance tests to assess fatigability [ 48]. The Endurance Shuttle Walk Test is a feasible test of endurance in ambulant people with SMA type 3. An externally paced walking task, the objective is to cover 10 m before each beep. The time between repeated beeps decreases, requiring an incremental increase in walking speed. This pilot study is the first report of the Endurance Shuttle Walk test and further studies are required to determine its validity, responsiveness and clinical utility in SMA and paediatric NMD.
The advent of wireless wearable activity monitors allows remote measurement of gait-related physical activity in children with NMD. Several studies have included wearable devices to measure steps and physical activity in DMD, CMD and mixed NMD [ 27, 32, 53, 61]. Davidson and colleagues (2015) found that boys with DMD have reduced daily step counts and reduced high activity time, with correspondingly greater inactivity compared to typically developing peers [ 32]. In a longitudinal study, Fowler and colleagues (2018) described physical activity levels in boys with DMD following a similar trajectory to timed tests and the 6MWT [ 27]. Daily step counts rose up to the age of 8 years, before plateauing and declining from the age of 10 years [ 27]. Children with NMD are largely inactive, spending up to 80% of their awake time in sedentary activities and on average only 2 h a day at a moderate intensity of activity [ 53, 61]. Whilst we assume neuromuscular weakness contributes to reduced physical activity, it is quite possible that reduced physical activity contributes further to increasing weakness. Lack of physical activity, together with disease-related weakness, is likely to impact gait and function in children with NMD.

Descriptive measures of gait

Together with quantitative measures of gait and function, descriptive scales and questionnaires are used to characterise gait and functional ambulation in paediatric NMD. Two such measures reported in this review are the Functional Mobility Scale (FMS) [ 67] and the Walk-12 [ 68] which have not been widely utilised in paediatric NMD to date.
The Functional Mobility Scale (FMS) is a clinical tool used to classify typical mobility over three distance categories – 5, 50 and 500 m in children with gait dysfunction [ 67]. These distances are commensurate with walking in the home (5 m), between classrooms in the school environment (50 m) and distances required in general community environments (500 m). The scale considers the level of assistance the child requires and a grading from 1 to 6 is applied; where 1 indicates the use of a wheelchair and 6 indicates fully independent walking on all surfaces and terrains, including stairs without use of a rail. One study has described functional mobility in children with CMT [ 16]. In this study 78% of the children reported reduced ambulatory function, across one or all distance/environment categories (score < 6) describing the functional impact of disease. Over 12 months there was little change in FMS scores, in keeping with the slow progression of CMT.
The Walk-12 is a self-reported questionnaire of perceived impact of disease on gait and gait related activities, such as running, using stairs and balance, modified and validated in adults with peripheral neuropathies [ 68, 79]. The tool is scored from 0 to 100%, where 0% indicates no impact and 100% indicates a high impact of disease on gait and related activities. In two studies, Walk-12 scores ranged from 12 to 25%, indicating that children with CMT perceived only mild impact of disease on gait and gait-related function [ 14, 22]. Interestingly, further examination of answers to individual questions indicated that CMT affected their ability to run (43%), ascend or descend stairs (41%), the speed with which they could walk (31%) and made it more effortful to walk (31%) [ 14]. Additionally, over 40% of the children reported moderate to severe limitations to their ability to walk longer distances in their everyday environments.

Clinical implications and future directions

Gait performance and functional ambulation are biomarkers of disease severity in paediatric NMD, providing a measure of disability. Assessment of gait and functional ambulation are important outcome measures in the toolbox of assessments for clinical research trials and in the clinical setting. With the advent of disease-modifying pharmacological treatments and uptake of physiotherapeutic exercise, younger people, including children with NMD are likely to benefit most from treatments. Therefore, it is important to utilise functional measures specific to children and adolescents to monitor disease progression and treatment efficacy.
There remains a need for further research and development of functional gait outcome measures for paediatric NMD. Limitations including the heterogeneity of the study populations and differences in assessment protocols precluded meta-analysis of these studies. ​As evidence accumulates, a more analytical systematic review may provide additional insights. The disparity of gait assessments in paediatric neuromuscular diseases also suggests that a Delphi survey would be useful in establishing expert consensus on which measures to use. Factors such as the normalization of gait parameters is important when comparing gait across age ranges and longitudinally to account for growth in children and should be standardly applied both clinically and in research. Further development and publication of paediatric normative reference datasets and MCIDs will be a valuable resource for clinicians working in neuromuscular clinics. Qualitative characterisation of gait and functional ambulation with scales or questionnaires enables clinicians to gain an understanding of the effect of disease on the day-to-day lives of children with NMD, beyond the neuromuscular outpatient clinic. The self-reported scales of functional mobility and gait-related activities require validation in paediatric NMD populations to ensure that they provide meaningful information and enable greater uptake by clinicians. Further exploration and utilization of technology for remote and wireless monitoring and measurement of walking in the typical environments of children, including home, school and the community provide greater understanding of the effect of disease on function.

Conclusion

This narrative review has highlighted clinical measures of gait ranging from gait speed to tests of ambulatory capacity, physical endurance and gait-related balance that can be conducted in clinical and research settings with relative ease. Consideration of environmental factors affecting function including distance requirements necessitated by school and community settings is important when understanding the effect of disease. An individual’s perception of the effect of disease on walking and everyday function are important considerations in the clinical setting. Person-centred characterization and assessment of gait dysfunction discussed in this narrative review provides a rich and holistic illustration of disability, and offers genuine outcome measures of potential therapeutic benefits on gait and functional ambulation in paediatric NMD. However, consensus is required amongst experts in paediatric neuromuscular disorders to establish a core set of gait and functional ambulatory assessments that can be used clinically and in research settings.

Supplementary information

Supplementary information accompanies this paper at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13047-020-0378-2.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the wider neuromuscular clinical and research community who contribute to a rich resource of publicly available knowledge in a field of rare diseases.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

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Consent for publication

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Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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