Objective.—To establish a simple measure of ataxia for use at high altitude.
Methods.—Twenty healthy subjects took part in a trek to 5005 m. At 5 different altitudes on the route, they undertook a balance test using a wobble board. The primary objectives were to investigate disturbances of ataxia at altitude and to correlate any observed disturbances with acute mountain sickness (AMS) scores. Secondary outcomes were correlations with cerebral regional oxygenation, pulse oximetry, and age.
Results.—After a short learning curve, the wobble board test was found to be reproducible. Subjects over 31 years of age were significantly less steady than younger subjects. Subjects suffering acute mountain sickness scored significantly worse on the wobble board test, although scores did not correlate with a specific question on unsteadiness. A positive test defined as equal to or more than 2.5 contacts over 2 minutes gave a predictive value for acute mountain sickness of 66.7% at 4650 m and 100% at 5005 m. Cerebral regional oxygenation in 9 subjects at 5005 m correlated with the wobble board test (r = 0.73; p < .05), whereas pulse oximetry did not.
Conclusions.—The wobble board may be a useful adjunct in quantitating ataxia in the field. A positive result may indicate the presence of AMS and may be a useful clinical measure of cerebral hypoxia but should be correlated with other clinical features.