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Wilmer Glaucoma Faculty Receive NIH Grant for Research on Falls

April 15, 2013

Dr. Pradeep Ramulu, an assistant professor in the glaucoma division of Wilmer Eye Institute, recently received a five-year, $1.75 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research falls in glaucoma patients, research that could have a life-changing impact on those with the disease.

Dr. Ramulu will be working with a team that includes fellow Wilmer faculty members Dr. Sheila West and Dr. David Friedman, along with Dr. Laura Gitlin, a falls prevention expert at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. As part of the study, he hopes to gain valuable data for developing interventions to prevent falls and improve the quality of life of those with glaucoma. Participants in the study, which will begin this summer, will report their falls history via logs and will use accelerometers (a sophisticated pedometer-like device) and GPS tracking devices that measure the amount of walking they are doing and where this walking occurs. Researchers will also study the patient’s home to determine which design features have a stronger association with falls.

While there have been prior studies on falls, they have focused on the total amount of falls and not specifically where they took place or their relation to the total amount of movement in each location. They also haven’t looked at the participants’ gait and walking patterns, which this study will address, with the goal of determining what specific changes in walking patterns allow people to avoid falls despite vision loss.

“Right now, we don’t know what the interventions should be,” Dr. Ramulu explained. “We need to look at how much time a patient spends inside and outside the home to see if the percentage of falls in each location is disproportionate to how much walking they do in each location. We need to see if specific changes in gait are good or bad.”

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