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Posturography is the clinical study of a patient's ability to remain upright. It involves the use of noninvasive medical testing to quantitatively measure a patient's balance and motor control. Various devices are used for posturography evaluations, including specialized platforms with sensors to provide feedback during the test. Physical therapists, neurologists, and other medical specialists can request this testing as part of a diagnostic evaluation or to monitor a patient's ongoing progress.
In a posturography test, the patient wears a safety harness in case of falls and is positioned on a platform. The most basic test involves asking the patient to stand up and hold the position as long as possible. Sensors in the platform provide information about how the patient's weight is distributed and will update when the patient loses balance and the weight shifts or becomes destabilized. Other tests can involve tilting or moving the platform to see how well a patient adapts to changing conditions.
Many medical issues can cause problems with balance. Neurological problems in the central or peripheral nervous system may impair a patient's motor control. The vestibular system for balance can be damaged, making it difficult for patients to know where they are relative to other objects and the environment. Muscle weakness may make it harder to stand, or patients can have tremors and other neurological issues that impair the ability to balance and stand safely.
Posturography testing is supervised by a technician and usually takes around 20 minutes. It should not be painful, and patients do not need to take any special steps to prepare. The testing can be ordered in association with brain scans, muscle conduction tests, and other medical testing to assess the patient's overall health. All of this information can be gathered for diagnostic purposes to narrow down a diagnosis for the patient and to develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Patients in treatment may also undergo periodic posturography testing. This can be done to see how well a patient is responding to treatment and determine if a treatment regimen needs to be adjusted. It may also be used to follow up on patients with degenerative diseases for the purpose of tracking progress. Studies of individual patients can be helpful for managing a case, and they also provide valuable information that can be useful in treatment of other patients with the same condition, if patients consent to release of their posturography results and other medical tests.