Falls presenting to the accident and emergency department: types of presentation and risk factor profile.

Abstract

The aim of this study was to evaluate the type and frequency of falls presenting to an inner city casualty department, and to identify modifiable risk factors in these patients. A prospective descriptive study evaluated those over 65 years presenting to an inner city casualty department with falls. Over a 4-week recruitment period, all consenting subjects completed a semi-structured questionnaire regarding their falls and cognitive status. Those with unexplained (UF) or recurrent falls (RF) underwent a more detailed assessment: history and examination, gait and balance assessment, visual acuity measurement and neurocardiovascular investigations (including orthostatic blood pressure, carotid sinus massage and head-up tilt testing). Of 200 patients with falls, 188 were interviewed; 29% could recall a reason for falling (accidental) and 30% had UF or RF. A cohort of 26 cognitively normal patients with UF and RF was fully investigated. In 23/26 patients risk factors for falls were found (median: three risk factors). These included: culprit medication (10), gait abnormalities (9) and carotid sinus hypersensitivity (19). Falls are a common presenting complaint yet a fall is readily explained in less than one-third of cases. Investigation of RF and UF has a high yield for possibly modifiable cardiac and non-cardiac risk factors. Targeted multi-disciplinary rapid assessment of patients attending the Accident and Emergency Department because of a fall might reduce the number of hospital admissions.

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