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Keywords:

  • epidemiology;
  • fall;
  • long-term care;
  • patient safety;
  • risk factor

Abstract

Rationale, aims and objective  Falls among hospitalized patients are an important patient safety issue. In particular, the incidence of falls and risk of related injuries among the elderly are particularly high. Because the epidemiology of falls is not well scrutinized in Japanese long-term care wards, we evaluated the incidence and risk factors of falls in this setting.

Methods  A prospective cohort study was conducted on long-term care wards with 160 beds in a general hospital in Japan. All patients admitted to the wards over 25 months were enrolled and followed until discharge. The baseline characteristics and incidences of falls were measured.

Results  We enrolled 2973 patients with a mean age of 74 years, and median length of stay was 36 days. During the study period, 657 falls occurred in 411 (14%) patients. The incidence of falls was 3.8 per 1000 patient-days, and by 15 and 30 days after admission to the ward, 7.3% and 11.4% of patients, respectively, had fallen. Independent risk factors related to falls during hospitalization were advanced age [≥70 years, hazard ratio (HR) 1.5, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.2–2.0], history of falls (HR 1.2, 95% CI 1.0–1.5), frequent urination (HR 1.4, 95% CI 1.0–1.8) and requirement for toileting assistance (HR 1.4, 95% CI 1.1–1.8). Among patients who fell during the study period, 23% sustained an injury.

Conclusions  Many patients on long-term care wards in Japan were elderly and experienced falls during their hospital stay, with consequent injuries. Taking into account the risk factors identified, we need to devise effective strategies to prevent falls and related injuries.