Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Risk Factors Symptoms Evaluation

Slip and Fall Overview

Another name for Slip and Fall is Falls.

How common are falls?
Falls are the leading cause of injury to older people in the United States. Each year, more than 11 million people over the age of 65 fall. Roughly 60% of falls occur in the home, but up to a third occur at other locations in the community. Approximately one out of 10 falls occur in a nursing home or other institution. Everybody falls at one time or another, but certain groups of people are at much higher risk for a serious injury. Every year, about 50,000 people are treated in an emergency room due to a fall related to the use of a walker or cane. The elderly also have weaker bones, due to the effects of osteoporosis. This makes it more likely that when you fall, you will break a bone. It's important to realize that not all falls are "trip and falls." Occasionally, an underlying disease process, such as a stroke, seizure, heart attack, hypoglycemia, or loss of consciousness can trigger a fall, and it is important that this is not overlooked in the evaluation.

What injuries are the most common after a fall?
The most common minor injuries sustained from a fall are contusions (bruises), abrasions, and back strain. More serious injuries include lacerations of the scalp, dental injury, and sprains. The most serious injuries include head injury and bone fractures, such as hip fracture, wrist fracture, shoulder fracture, and fractures of the spine.

How does a doctor evaluate a person after a fall?
After a person falls it is important to determine which part of the body was injured. The medical history becomes an essential part of the evaluation since the person can often tell you exactly where they are having pain. They should also be able to tell you what they were doing prior to the fall. Anyone who cannot remember a fall may have suffered a seizure or has a concussion after an injury to the head.

Continue to Slip and Fall Risk Factors

Last Updated: Oct 6, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Slip and Fall References
  1. Chen XL, Liu YH, Chan DK, Shen Q, Van Nguyen H. Characteristics associated with falls among the elderly within aged care wards in a tertiary hospital: a retrospective. Chin Med J (Engl). 2010 Jul;123(13):1668-72. [20819626]
  2. Choi KW, Lee IS. [Fall risk in low-income elderly people in one urban area.]. J Korean Acad Nurs. 2010 Aug;40(4):589-98. Korean. [20820126]
  3. Decullier E, Couris CM, Beauchet O, Zamora A, Annweiler C, Dargent Molina P, Schott AM. Falls' and fallers' profiles. J Nutr Health Aging. 2010;14(7):602-8. [20818477]
  4. Nelson AL, Groer S, Palacios P, Mitchell D, Sabharwal S, Kirby RL, Gavin-Dreschnack D, Powell-Cope G. Wheelchair-related falls in veterans with spinal cord injury residing in the community: a prospective cohort study. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2010 Aug;91(8):1166-73. [20684896]
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