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Carmen Abbott, MA, PT

School of Health Professions, University of Missouri-Columbia

Falls and Hip Fractures

Incidence of Falls and Associated Morbidity & Mortality

Falls are the leading cause of fatal (Kung, 2008) and nonfatal (Alexander, 1992; Cleveland Clinic Health System, 2004) injuries to older people in the United States. More than one-third of adults ages 65 years and older (about 12 million people) fall each year (Hausdorff JM, 2001; Chang JT, 2004; CDC, 2012).

More than 300,000 persons over age 65 will fracture a hip in the United States during the coming year (Magaziner J, 2000). "Between 18%-33% of older hip fracture patients die within 1 year of their fracture. . . .    Depending upon the population studied and function being assessed, an estimated 25%-75% of those who are independent before their fracture can neither walk independently nor achieve their previous level of independent living within 1 year following their fracture." (Magaziner J, 2000).

The number of falls in the elderly and ensuing hip fractures will undoubtedly increase. When the boomer generation matures, one-third of the population will be over age 55. The number of people most vulnerable to chronic disorders and physical limitations, those over 85, will nearly triple. Thus, by the year 2040, over 650,000 hip fractures will occur annually in older adults, and 18-33% of these older hip fracture patients will die within the first year of their fracture (Resnick B, 2002).

In 2000, fractures were not only the most common type of non-fatal injuries, they were also the most costly (Stevens JA, 2006). For example, the number of hospital-bed days for women with hip fractures surpasses that for patients with myocardial infarction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and breast cancer (Kanis JA, 1997).

An estimated 47,000 older adults per year have fall injuries associated with using walkers and canes (Stevens JA, 2009).

"The treatment of injuries and complications associated with falls costs over $20 billion each year. . . .    Fortunately, research has shown that the majority of falls are preventable. Many medical risk factors for falling can be controlled." (Cleveland Clinic Health System, 2004). Elsewhere we discuss successful and less successful methods of preventing falls.

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Last Update: Dec 3 2012