Characteristics of falls in hospitalized patients

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Abstract

Background

The high incidence of patient falls in a hospital setting is a major concern in any health system. Research findings have reported the risk factors for these falls as age, gender, certain medications, mental status, chronic diseases and environmental factors. Falls may lead to fear, pain, slight or severe injuries, increase the duration of hospital stay, cause patient discomfort and affect quality of life.

Aim

The aim of this paper is to report a study of the characteristics of patient falls during hospitalization in 1998 and compare them with those in the period 1978–1981.

Methods

A retrospective study was performed in a large, 2000-bed medical center in Israel. Reports of 711 fall incidents in 1998 were compared with 328 reports in 1978–1981. Information gathered included age, gender, department, shift, reasons, severity of injury, tests and treatment after injury.

Results

The rates of falls per 1000 admissions in psychiatric, elder care and rehabilitation departments in 1998 were statistically significantly higher than in the earlier period. Rates of 115, 91, 85, respectively, per 1000 admissions were reported in 1998 compared with 34, 9, 19, respectively, in the period 1978–1981. The percentage of reported falls in the younger age group (under 50) was higher in the later survey (1998), and a higher proportion occurred outside the patient's room. Most of the reported falls in 1998 occurred during the morning shift (P < 0·001).

Conclusions

The increased number of falls could be an outcome of increased awareness. Nevertheless, the causes and place of falls differ for the two periods. Some of the reasons may be related to an intervention programme carried out after the first survey. The latest survey results will serve as an important basis for a further intervention programme in specific departments to ensure patient safety.

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