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Ann Intern Med. 1990 Aug 15;113(4):308-16.

The value of assessing falls in an elderly population. A randomized clinical trial.

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  • 1Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Sepulveda, California.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To measure the effects of a specialized postfall assessment intended to detect causes and underlying risk factors for falls, and to recommend preventive and therapeutic interventions.

DESIGN:

Randomized, controlled trial.

SETTING:

A long-term residential care facility for elderly persons.

SUBJECTS:

Within 7 days of a fall, 160 ambulatory subjects (mean age, 87 years) were randomly assigned to receive either a comprehensive postfall assessment (intervention group, n = 79) or usual care (control group, n = 81).

INTERVENTION:

The postfall assessment included a detailed physical examination and environmental assessment by a nurse practitioner; laboratory tests; electrocardiogram; and 24-hour Holter monitoring. Probable cause or causes for the fall, identified risk factors, and therapeutic recommendations were given to the patient's primary physician.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS:

Through use of the assessment, many remediable problems (for example, weakness, environmental hazards, orthostatic hypotension, drug side effects, gait dysfunction) were detected. At the end of the 2-year follow-up period, the intervention group had 26% fewer hospitalizations (P less than 0.05) and a 52% reduction in hospital days (P less than 0.01) compared with controls. Patients in the intervention group had 9% fewer falls and 17% fewer deaths than controls by 2 years, but these trends were not statistically significant.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our study suggests that falls are a marker of underlying disorders easily identifiable by a careful postfall assessment, which in turn can reduce disability and costs.

PMID:
2115755
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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