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For elderly, even short falls can be deadly
Date:11/1/2010

While simple falls, such as slipping while walking off a curb, may seem relatively harmless, they can actually lead to severe injury and death in elderly individuals, according to a new study published in The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care. As the population continues to age, it is important for physicians and caregivers to be aware of and prepared to deal with this issue, which could significantly impact the overall health and wellbeing of older adults.

In contrast to falls from greater heights, ground-level falls essentially falls from a standing position, with feet touching the ground prior to the fall have traditionally been considered minor injuries. But, the new study found elderly adults 70 years or older who experience ground-level falls are much more likely to be severely injured and less likely to survive their injuries compared to adults younger than 70 years. Elderly patients are three times as likely to die following a ground-level fall compared to their under-70 counterparts.

Trauma surgeon and researcher Julius Cheng, M.D., M.P.H, conducted the largest analysis to date of trauma patients experiencing ground-level falls. His team identified 57,302 patients with ground-level falls from 2001 through 2005 using the National Trauma Data Bank and analyzed demographics, type and severity of injuries and final outcomes.

"There is the potential to minimize what people see as a relatively trivial issue, such as slipping and falling on a wet tile floor. Our research shows that falls from low levels shouldn't be underestimated in terms of how bad they can be, especially in older patients," said Cheng, associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center and lead author of the new study.

Between 1993 and 2003, there was a 55 percent increase in the rate of fatal falls for elderly adults. Because of the increasing age in the general population,
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Contact: Emily Boynton
emily_boynton@urmc.rochester.edu
585-273-1757
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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