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OBJECTIVE: The authors sought to systematically review the existing literature on the falls-related diagnostic test properties of the Functional Reach Test (FRT), single-leg stance test (SLST), and Tinetti Performance-Oriented Mobility Assessment (POMA) in older adults across settings and patient populations.

METHODS: The PubMed, EMBASE, and CINAHL databases were searched (inception-July 2020). Inclusion criteria were participants aged 60 years or more, prospectively recorded falls, and the reporting of falls-related predictive validity. Manuscripts not published in English were excluded. Methodological quality of reporting was assessed using the Tooth Scale.

RESULTS: Of 1071 studies reviewed, 21 met the inclusion criteria (12 POMA, 8 FRT, 6 SLST). Seven studies (58.3%) used a modified version of the POMA, and 3 (37.5%) used a modified FRT. For the outcome of any fall, the respective ranges of sensitivity and specificity were 0.076 to 0.615 and 0.695 to 0.97 for the POMA, 0.27 to 0.70 and 0.52 to 0.83 for the modified POMA, 0.73 and 0.88 for the FRT, 0.47 to 0.682 and 0.59 to 0.788 for the modified FRT, and 0.51 and 0.61 for the SLST in community-dwelling older adults. For the SLST, the sensitivity and specificity for recurrent falls in the community-dwelling setting were 0.33 and 0.712, respectively.

CONCLUSION: All the clinical tests of balance demonstrated an overall low diagnostic accuracy and a consistent inability to correctly identify fallers. None of these tests individually are able to predict future falls in older adults. Future research should develop a better understanding of the role that clinical tests of balance play in the comprehensive assessment of falls risk in older adults.

IMPACT: Neither the FRT, SLST, nor POMA alone shows consistent evidence of being able to correctly identify fallers across fall types, settings, or older adult subpopulations. These clinical tests of balance cannot substitute a comprehensive falls risk assessment and thus should be incorporated in practice solely to identify and track balance impairment in older adults.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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