May 2, 2013

Accidental older adult falls result in 2.3 million emergency visits each year


COLUMBIA, Tenn. — One out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Emergency departments, such as the one at Maury Regional Medical Center, often see the results of these falls—ranging from minor injuries to severe traumatic falls.

“We see so many cases of people who appear to have a minor fall that result in a significant injury,” said Dr. Andrew Sama, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “The older you get, the more vulnerable you are. The good thing is—many of these falls are preventable if you take action now.”  

In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments with more than 662,000 of these patients being hospitalized, according to the CDC. Twenty to thirty percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries. They may include hip fractures, head trauma and lacerations. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries. Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls. Over 95 percent of hip fractures in the United States are caused by falls.

According to Dr. Mark McLean, emergency department director at MRMC, several things can help to prevent falls—especially for elderly people.


  • Reduce tripping hazards around your house.  Keep loose objects off floors, position furniture to allow for more walking space and make sure your floors have good traction.
  • Add grip bars in a tub or shower and next to toilets or any area where you would be more vulnerable to falls.
  • Improve lighting in and around your home.
  • Have your eyes examined by a doctor at least once a year and update your eyeglasses as needed.
  • Exercise regularly focusing on increasing leg strength.
  • If you have dizzy spells, see your physician.