Written by Ziyang Zhao Edited by Dr. Hayley McLoughlin
A newly developed smartphone application will allow patients to assess ataxia at home.
There’s an interesting problem in science that’s often overshadowed in the scientific community. It’s not as flashy or as newsworthy as most scientific headlines, like the eradication of Polio or the creation of the coronavirus vaccine, but its importance looms nonetheless. That problem is the monumental task of getting people to assess themselves.
Take this interesting bit: The American Cancer Society found that nearly 100% of Americans are aware of the benefits of monthly screenings for Colorectal Cancer — a preventable and treatable form of cancer, if detected early — yet nearly 50,000 Colorectal Cancer-related deaths occur each year in the United States (American Cancer Society, 2016). Alongside that first statistic, the American Cancer Society had also asked why an unscreened individual chooses to remain so. An important reason, they noted, was patient concern over the complexities of taking a test: taking time off from work, getting a ride home, and high out-of-pocket expenses.
In Ataxia-based diseases, testing is similarly cumbersome and accessibility for assessment is not readily available. The most common way to measure the degree of one’s level of Ataxia is through the Scale for assessment and rating of ataxia (SARA) score, which evaluates 9 ataxia-affected abilities to produce a composite score. The problem, however, is that the SARA test is cumbersome. It’s a costly assessment that requires the patient to travel to their local hospital and meet with a testing expert.
In this study, the researchers devised an Ataxia assessment matching the SARA test that can be performed at home, which they call SARAhome. While the original SARA test assessed 8 attributes, this new Ataxia test only assessed 5, including gait, stance, speech, nose-finger test, fast alternating hand movements. To make SARAhome even easier to take at home, the researchers also incorporated some modifications to their selected 5 tests from the original SARA test, including reducing required walking distances, performing fast-alternating movement and nose-finger tests on a chair, and replacing an investigator’s finger in the nose finger test with a tape-mark on the wall. These video recordings would be sent to an experienced rater, who would subsequently produce the score.Continue reading “Scientists develop a new approach to assessing Ataxia at home”