More Than Two Million Seniors Treated for Falls in Hospital Emergency Departments

Hospital emergency departments treated more than 2 million seniors for broken bones, head wounds, cuts and other injuries caused by falls in 2006 at a cost to hospitals of approximately $7 billion for emergency and subsequent inpatient care, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among Americans aged 65 and older. The cost for medical treatment, which is paid mainly by Medicare, is expected to increase as the number of older Americans grows.

The federal agency’s analysis of hospital emergency department data for patients age 65 and older treated for injuries caused by falls shows that one in 10 emergency department visits by seniors were for injuries related to falls. Emergency department visits related to injurious falls increases with age. One in 10 men and one in 7 women older than age 85 have an emergency department visit for an injurious fall.

The analysis also shows that the seniors who went to emergency department due to falls, 41% had fractures, primarily of an upper extremity or a hip. Other common injuries resulting from falls included open wounds (21% of visits for falls), sprains and strains (10%), injuries to internal organs (5%) and joint dislocations (1.5%).

The analysis points out that about 63% of the patients who had injuries to an internal organ and 51% of people with fractures were hospitalized. The analysis also shows 41% of patients with fractures and 33% of those who sustained internal organ injuries were transferred to a nursing home or other type of long-term care facility.

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