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Falls Send More Than Two Million Seniors to Hospital Emergency Departments

AHRQ News and Numbers, October 7, 2009

AHRQ News and Numbers provides statistical highlights on the use and cost of health services and health insurance in the United States.

Hospital emergency departments treated more than 2 million seniors for broken bones, head wounds, cuts, and other injuries caused by falls in 2006 at a cost to hospitals of approximately $7 billion for emergency and subsequent inpatient care, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among Americans aged 65 and older. The cost for medical treatment, which is paid mainly by Medicare, is expected to increase as the number of older Americans grows.

The Federal Agency's analysis of hospital emergency department data for patients age 65 and above treated for injuries caused by falls shows that:

  • One in 10 emergency department visits by seniors were for injuries related to falls. Emergency department visits related to injurious falls increases with age. Indeed, 1 in 10 men and 1 in 7 women over the age of 85 have an emergency department visit for an injurious fall.
  • Of the seniors who went to the emergency department due to falls, 41 percent had fractures, primarily of an upper extremity or a hip. Other common injuries resulting from falls included open wounds (21 percent of visits for falls), sprains and strains (10 percent), injuries to internal organs (5 percent), and joint dislocations (1.5 percent).
  • About 63 percent of the patients who had injuries to an internal organ and 51 percent of people with fractures were hospitalized.
  • About 41 percent of patients with fractures and 33 percent of those who sustained internal organ injuries were transferred to a nursing home or other type of long-term care facility.

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data in HCUP Statistical Brief #80: Emergency Department Visits for Injurious Falls Among the Elderly, 2006. The report uses statistics from the 2006 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, a new AHRQ database that is nationally representative of emergency department visits in all non-Federal hospitals. The Nationwide Emergency Department Sample contains 26 million records from emergency department visits from approximately 1,000 community hospitals nationwide. This represents 20 percent of all U.S. hospital emergency departments.

For other information, contact or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of October 2009
Internet Citation: Falls Send More Than Two Million Seniors to Hospital Emergency Departments: AHRQ News and Numbers, October 7, 2009. October 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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