COLUMBUS, Ohio – Falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths for older Ohioas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2012, 2.4 million non-fatal falls among older adults were treated in emergency departments across the country.
A study being published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS) reviewed the charts of geriatric patients to determine factors associated with, and increasing the risk of, a return visit to the emergency room upon discharge.
Within the 18-month study period, researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center reviewed electronic medical records of 263 adults ages 65 and older who were evaluated and treated in the institution’s Level 1 Trauma Center for a fall and discharged.
“We found that more than one-third of older adults with minor head trauma caused by a fall will need to come back to the emergency room within 90 days after discharge,” said Dr. Lauren Southerland, an emergency medicine physician at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center who specializes in geriatric medical care.
While many older adults require hospital admission for further medical care after an injurious fall, approximately half will be discharged after their emergency department evaluation. These patients are at risk for functional decline and difficulty accessing resources at home.
“Older adults with falls are a higher risk population that could benefit from early interventions to reduce their need for recurrent emergency care,” Southerland said. “An emergency department visit for a fall should be seen as an opportunity to address unmet patient care needs.”
Southerland said emergency department providers are often the only healthcare contact for these discharged patients, and the physicians may not have the time or training to ensure that the patient’s home health care needs are met. Half of older adults seen in the emergency department for injuries require increased home health services.
Other Ohio State researchers involved in the study were Drs. Jeffrey Caterino, Shari Robinson, James Falk, Laura Pfieffer and Joseph Rosenthal and researcher Julie Stephens.