Wearable airbag technology and machine learned models to mitigate falls after stroke

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Background: Falls are a common complication experienced after a stroke and can cause serious detriments to physical health and social mobility, necessitating a dire need for intervention. Among recent advancements, wearable airbag technology has been designed to detect and mitigate fall impact. However, these devices have not been designed nor validated for the stroke population and thus, may inadequately detect falls in individuals with stroke-related motor impairments. To address this gap, we investigated whether population-specific training data and modeling parameters are required to pre-detect falls in a chronic stroke population. Methods: We collected data from a wearable airbag’s inertial measurement units (IMUs) from individuals with (n = 20 stroke) and without (n = 15 control) history of stroke while performing a series of falls (842 falls total) and non-falls (961 non-falls total) in a laboratory setting. A leave-one-subject-out crossvalidation was used to compare the performance of two identical machine learned models (adaptive boosting classifier) trained on cohort-dependent data (control or stroke) to pre-detect falls in the stroke cohort. Results: The average performance of the model trained on stroke data (recall = 0.905, precision = 0.900) had statistically significantly better recall (P = 0.0035) than the model trained on control data (recall = 0.800, precision = 0.944), while precision was not statistically significantly different. Stratifying models trained on specific fall types revealed differences in pre-detecting anterior–posterior (AP) falls (stroke-trained model’s F1-score was 35% higher, P = 0.019). Using activities of daily living as non-falls training data (compared to near-falls) significantly increased the AUC (Area under the receiver operating characteristic) for classifying AP falls for both models (P < 0.04). Preliminary analysis suggests that users with more severe stroke impairments benefit further from a stroke-trained model. The optimal lead time (time interval pre-impact to detect falls) differed between control- and stroke-trained models. Conclusions: These results demonstrate the importance of population sensitivity, non-falls data, and optimal lead time for machine learned pre-impact fall detection specific to stroke. Existing fall mitigation technologies should be challenged to include data of neurologically impaired individuals in model development to adequately detect falls in other high fall risk populations. Trial registrationhttps://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05076565; Unique Identifier: NCT05076565. Retrospectively registered on 13 October 2021