Obesity Facts (2020-10-01)

Postural Stability in Obese Preoperative Bariatric Patients Using Static and Dynamic Evaluation

  • Gabriel M. Pagnotti,
  • Amna Haider,
  • Ariel Yang,
  • Kathryn E. Cottell,
  • Catherine M. Tuppo,
  • Kai-Yu Tong,
  • Aurora D. Pryor,
  • Clinton T. Rubin,
  • M. Ete Chan

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 13, no. 5
pp. 499 – 513


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Introduction: Globally, 300 million adults have clinical obesity. Heightened adiposity and inadequate musculature secondary to obesity alter bipedal stance and gait, diminish musculoskeletal tissue quality, and compromise neuromuscular feedback; these physiological changes alter stability and increase injury risk from falls. Studies in the field focus on obese patients across a broad range of body mass indices (BMI >30 kg/m2) but without isolating the most morbidly obese subset (BMI ≥40 kg/m2). We investigated the impact of obesity in perturbing postural stability in morbidly obese subjects elected for bariatric intervention, harboring a higher-spectrum BMI. Subjects and Methods: Traditional force plate measurements and stabilograms are gold standards employed when measuring center of pressure (COP) and postural sway. To quantify the extent of postural instability in subjects with obesity before bariatric surgery, we assessed 17 obese subjects with an average BMI of 40 kg/m2 in contrast to 13 nonobese subjects with an average BMI of 30 kg/m2. COP and postural sway were measured from static and dynamic tasks. Involuntary movements were measured when patients performed static stances, with eyes either opened or closed. Two additional voluntary movements were measured when subjects performed dynamic, upper torso tasks with eyes opened. Results: Mean body weight was 85% (p < 0.001) greater in obese than nonobese subjects. Following static balance assessments, we observed greater sway displacement in the anteroposterior (AP) direction in obese subjects with eyes open (87%, p < 0.002) and eyes closed (76%, p = 0.04) versus nonobese subjects. Obese subjects also exhibited a higher COP velocity in static tests when subjects’ eyes were open (47%, p = 0.04). Dynamic tests demonstrated no differences between groups in sway displacement in either direction; however, COP velocity in the mediolateral (ML) direction was reduced (31%, p < 0.02) in obese subjects while voluntarily swaying in the AP direction, but increased in the same cohort when swaying in the ML direction (40%, p < 0.04). Discussion and Conclusion: Importantly, these data highlight obesity’s contribution towards increased postural instability. Obese subjects exhibited greater COP displacement at higher AP velocities versus nonobese subjects, suggesting that clinically obese individuals show greater instability than nonobese subjects. Identifying factors contributory to instability could encourage patient-specific physical therapies and presurgical measures to mitigate instability and monitor postsurgical balance improvements.