Chris Brymer, MSc, MD, FRCPC
University of Western Ontario,
Falls are the leading cause of injury admissions to acute care hospitals in Ontario, and are a common cause of admission to an inpatient geriatric assessment unit. Although falls prevention has been an active, ongoing area of geriatric research for many years, the publication of the results of 4 randomized controlled trials in 1999, addressing falls prevention in the outpatient setting, suggests we may be 'turning the corner', going from research to actual practice.
Close et al's January 1999 study published in Lancet, randomized 397 patients, 65 years of age and older, who had presented to an emergency department with a fall and who were provided with either usual care (n=213), or a detailed falls assessment (n=184).1 Intervention patients underwent a detailed assessment of their visual acuity, balance, cognition, affect, and medication use by a physician in a day hospital setting, and had their functional status and home environment assessed by an occupational therapist. Although the intervention was essentially a 'one-time' assessment, follow-up care was recommended in 84% of cases. During a one-year follow-up period, self-reported falls, recurrent falls, and hospital admission were 61%, 67%, and 39% lower, respectively, in the intervention group by comparison with the usual-care group. Follow-up data was available after one year for approximately 77% of the patients in each group.