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

the number of elderly patients visiting the emergency department with ground-level falls is increasing, and will likely continue to rise in the future. It is now estimated that 30 percent of adults older than 65 years will experience an unintentional fall each year.

"Instead of an influx of 'traditional' knife-and-gun club victims, trauma centers of the future may need to prepare for treatment of a less dramatic but no less relevant form of injury that may very well have a substantial impact on the health and independence of our older citizens," said Thomas S. Helling, M.D., from the Department of Surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

The negative effect of age on health outcomes has been well established in past studies in other areas as well. Many elderly adults are frail and have pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart disease. In these types of patients, a low-level fall that results in a broken hip could have serious, far-reaching consequences. According to Cheng, "An 80 year old often can't tolerate and recover from trauma like a 20 year old."

Cheng's team found that approximately 4.5 percent of elderly patients (70 years and above) died following a ground-level fall, compared to 1.5 percent of non-elderly patients. Elderly patients remained in the hospital and the intensive care unit longer and only 22 percent were able to function on their own after they left the hospital, compared to 41 percent of non-elderly patients.

Though low-level falls can potentially lead to significant injury and death, the reality is that almost three-quarters of patients with ground-level falls are not severely injured. Given the limited resources available to most medical centers across the United States and the increasing number of elderly patients needing treatment, Cheng's team identified two major predictors of death in patients who have experienced ground-level f
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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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