Persistent but Less Severe Ataxia in Long-Term Versus Short-Term Abstinent Alcoholic Men and Women: A Cross-Sectional Analysis
Article first published online: 15 SEP 2011
Copyright © 2011 by the Research Society on Alcoholism
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Volume 35, Issue 12, pages 2184–2192, December 2011
How to Cite
Smith, S. and Fein, G. (2011), Persistent but Less Severe Ataxia in Long-Term Versus Short-Term Abstinent Alcoholic Men and Women: A Cross-Sectional Analysis. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 35: 2184–2192. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01567.x
- Issue published online: 18 NOV 2011
- Article first published online: 15 SEP 2011
- Received for publication January 14, 2011; accepted March 26, 2011.
- Gait and Balance;
- Extended Abstinence;
Background: Disturbed gait and balance are among the most consistent and salient sequelae of chronic alcoholism. Results of small sample longitudinal investigations have provided evidence that partial recovery of gait and balance functions in alcoholics may be achieved with abstinence. However, abstinence durations reported have been limited, and their power and generalizability have suffered from small sample sizes.
Methods: In this study, we employed a cross-sectional approach to assess gait and balance functions in short-term (6 to 15 weeks) abstinent alcoholics (STAA; n = 70) and long-term (minimum 18 months, mean = 7.38 years) abstinent alcoholics (LTAA; n = 82). STAA and LTAA did not differ with respect to lifetime alcohol consumption, family drinking density, or years of education. In addition, we examined the effects of gender and alcohol use variables.
Results: Our main findings were: (i) persistent disturbed gait and balance in STAA and disturbed standing balance in LTAA; (ii) overall less impaired performance of LTAA compared with STAA on gait and balance measures; and (iii) worse performance of STAA (but not LTAA) women, compared with men, on standing balance without visual control.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that alcoholics’ gait and balance can continue to recover with long abstinence from alcohol, but that deficits persist, especially in eyes-closed standing balance. In addition, our results are consistent with more severe alcohol-induced ataxia in women than in men but suggest that with extended abstinence, women recover gait and balance function to a level comparable with men.