Location, timing of falls 'counterintuitive,' researcher says

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Photo: Texas A&M Health Science Center
Photo: Texas A&M Health Science Center

If Wednesday's flip of the calendar to November had you worried about residents' increased falls risk associated with walking outdoors in winter months, preliminary results of a study suggest that your concern is misplaced.

Most falls occur during warm months, and a greater number of the falls happen indoors rather than outside, according to the research, recently presented at the Anesthesiology 2017 annual meeting.

“Given the results of this study, it appears that efforts to decrease fall risk among the elderly living in cold climates should not be preferentially aimed at preventing outdoor fractures in winter, but should focus on conditions present throughout the year, and most importantly on mitigating indoor risk,” said study author Jason Guercio, M.D., MBA, of North American Partners in Anesthesiology at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain.

The study results are “counterintuitive,” he said, because ice and snow appear to be significant fall risks.

In the retrospective observational study, records related to 544 patients treated at The Hospital of Central Connecticut for hip fracture from 2013 to 2016 were analyzed for the time of year the fracture occurred and whether it happened indoors or outdoors. The authors defined “cold” months as November through April and “warm” months as May through October.

More than 55% of hip fractures occurred during warm months, the study found, and the majority (76.3%) of them occurred indoors.

Of the outdoor fractures, more than 60% of them occurred during warm months. For fractures that occurred indoors, more than 56% happened during warm months.

Tripping over an obstacle was the most common reason for both indoor and outdoor hip fractures (43.3% and 57.1%, respectively). Indoors, the most common obstacle appeared to be throw rugs.

For indoor fractures, the second leading cause was falling out of bed. For outdoor fractures, the second and third leading causes were being struck by or falling from a vehicle or falling on or down stairs.

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