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  • New in the Literature: Gait Speed and Acute Care Physical Therapy (J Geriatr Phys Ther. 2012 March 11 [Epub ahead of print])

    Walking speed is a feasible measure for patients admitted to an acute care hospital, illustrating that patients walk slowly relative to community requirements but that their speed improves even over a short course of therapy, say authors of an article published online in Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy.   

    This observational cross-sectional study included 46 hospital inpatients (mean age 75 years (SD = 7.8) who were referred to physical therapy and able to walk at least 20 feet. Researchers obtained information regarding diagnosis, comorbidities, physical assistance, device use, body height, and weight for each participant. Speed was determined during initial and final physical therapy visits while patients walked at their self-selected speed over a marked course in a hospital corridor. 

    Therapists reported that measuring walking speed was clinically feasible, requiring inexpensive, available resources, 4 minutes' additional time, and simple calculations for documentation. Initial walking speed was a mean of 0.33 m/s (SD = 0.21), whereas final speed was 0.37 m/s (SD = 0.20). The Wilcoxon test showed the increase in walking speed (0.04 m/s) to be significant over a mean therapy period of 2.0 days (SD = 1.4) and total hospitalization period of 5.5 days (SD = 3.6). The effect size and standardized response mean were 0.19 and 0.36, respectively. Minimal detectable change was 0.18 m/s.

    APTA member Heather J. Braden, PT, MPT, PhD, GCS, is lead author of the article. APTA members Richard Bohannon, PT, DPT, EdD, NCS, FAPTA, and Scott Hasson, PT, EdD, FACSM, FAPTA, are coauthors.

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