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The Life Cycle of Bruises in Older Adults

Authors

  • Laura Mosqueda MD,

    1. From the Department of Family Medicine, Program in Geriatrics, College of Medicine, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, California.
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  • Kerry Burnight PhD,

    1. From the Department of Family Medicine, Program in Geriatrics, College of Medicine, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, California.
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  • Solomon Liao MD

    1. From the Department of Family Medicine, Program in Geriatrics, College of Medicine, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, California.
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  • This study was supported by National Institute of Justice Grant 2001-IJ-CX-KO14.

Address correspondence to Laura Mosqueda, MD, 101 The City Drive South, Building 200, Suite 835, Orange, CA 92868. E-mail: mosqueda@uci.edu

Abstract

Objectives: To summarize the occurrence, progression, and resolution of accidentally acquired bruises in a sample of adults aged 65 and older. The systematic documentation of accidentally occurring bruises in older adults could provide a foundation for comparison when considering suspicious bruising in older adults.

Design: Between April 2002 and August 2003, a convenience sample of 101 seniors was examined daily at home (up to 6 weeks) to document the occurrence, progression, and resolution of accidental bruises that occurred during the observation period.

Setting: Three community-based settings and two skilled nursing facilities in Orange County, California.

Participants: One hundred one adults aged 65 and older (mean age=83).

Measurements: Age, sex, ethnicity, functional status, handedness, medical conditions, medications, cognitive status, depression, history of falls, bruise size, bruise location, initial bruise color, color change over time.

Results: Nearly 90% of the bruises were on the extremities. There were no bruises on the neck, ears, genitalia, buttocks, or soles of the feet. Subjects were more likely to know the cause of the bruise if the bruise was on the trunk. Contrary to the common perception that yellow coloration indicates an older bruise, 16 bruises were predominately yellow within the first 24 hours after onset. People on medications known to affect coagulation pathways and those with compromised function were more likely to have multiple bruises.

Conclusion: Accidental bruises occur in a predictable location pattern in older adults. One cannot reliably predict the age of a bruise by its color.

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