Background and aims. Falls among older people remain a major public health challenge. Body-worn sensors are needed to improve the understanding of the underlying mechanisms and kinematics of falls. The aim of this systematic review is to assemble, extract and critically discuss the information available in published studies, as well as the characteristics of these investigations (fall documentation and technical characteristics).
Methods. The searching of publically accessible electronic literature databases for articles on fall detection with body-worn sensors identified a collection of 96 records (33 journal articles, 60 conference proceedings and 3 project reports) published between 1998 and 2012. These publications were analysed by two independent expert reviewers. Information was extracted into a custom-built data form and processed using SPSS (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA).
Results. The main findings were the lack of agreement between the methodology and documentation protocols (study, fall reporting and technical characteristics) used in the studies, as well as a substantial lack of real-world fall recordings. A methodological pitfall identified in most articles was the lack of an established fall definition. The types of sensors and their technical specifications varied considerably between studies.
Conclusion. Limited methodological agreement between sensor-based fall detection studies using body-worn sensors was identified. Published evidence-based support for commercially available fall detection devices is still lacking. A worldwide research group consensus is needed to address fundamental issues such as incident verification, the establishment of guidelines for fall reporting and the development of a common fall definition.