Objective: To investigate differences in gait variability induced by two different single-dose opioid formulations and an inert placebo in healthy volunteers and knee osteoarthritis patients.
Design: Experimental, randomized, double-blinded, crossover study of inert placebo (calcium tablets), 50 mg of tapentadol, and 100 mg of tramadol.
Setting: Laboratory setting.
Subjects: Healthy volunteers and knee osteoarthritis patients.
Methods: At three visits, separated by seven days, one tablet was administered per visit according to the randomization code. At each visit, a baseline measurement was done before tablet administration, after which hourly measurements were performed for six hours, yielding a total of seven measurements per visit. Gait variability was measured by three-dimensional gait analysis, recorded during six minutes of continuous treadmill walking at self-selected speed. One hundred seventy gait cycles were identified from detection of clear events of the knee joint angle trajectories. Gait variability was assessed as average standard deviations over a gait cycle of the sacrum displacements and accelerations; sagittal plane ankle, knee, and hip joint angles; step widths; and stride times.
Results: Twenty-four opioid-naïve and neurologically intact participants (12 healthy volunteers and 12 knee osteoarthritis patients) were included and completed the experiment. Tapentadol reduced the variability of sacrum displacements and accelerations compared with placebo and tramadol. There were no differences between experimental conditions regarding the variability in lower-extremity joint angle variability, step widths, or stride times.
Conclusions: In opioid-naïve and neurologically intact individuals, tapentadol seems to reduce movement variability during treadmill walking, compared with placebo and tramadol. This can be interpreted as a loss of adaptability that might increase the risk of falling if the system is perturbed.