What are the most serious consequences of a fall in the elderly?
Falls in the elderly can result in various consequences, ranging from physical consequences such as broken bones and hospitalisation to social and psychological factors such as a loss of independence or developing a fear of walking.
The consequences of falls are numerous and significant, and in this short article, we will outline some of the most serious physical consequences of falls.
Broken bones and fractures
According to data released by NHS Digital nearly 100,000 older people (aged 65+) suffered hip fractures in 2017/18, with falls being a significant contributor.
Other studies suggest that one out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.1,2
Broken bones and fractures are one of the most serious consequences of falls, and they can be very difficult for an elderly and frail person to completely recover from.
Head and brain injuries
If an elderly person has fallen from a standing position in a small room or near furniture, there’s a high chance of them hitting their head and suffering from a head injury.
Some of the most serious head injuries include:
- Skull fractures
- Haemorrhage (bleeding of the brain)
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
According to a US study, falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).3
If an elderly person who has suffered a fall has experienced a ‘long lie’ and been left on the floor for more than an hour waiting for assistance, they could develop serious conditions such as pneumonia.
Floors are typically cold and sometimes damp, and if an elderly person is left on the floor for a long time waiting for assistance, they are much more likely to develop pneumonia, which can have long-term effects and a long recovery time.
Related article: What Is A Long Lie Fall? Causes, Impact, and Prevention
Acute kidney failure
Another consequence of lying on the floor for a long time after a fall is serious dehydration.
Dehydration is one of the main causes of acute kidney injury and kidney failure in the elderly, often resulting in long periods of hospitalisation and reduced independence in the long-term.
 Alexander BH, Rivara FP, Wolf ME. The cost and frequency of hospitalization for fall–related injuries in older adults. American Journal of Public Health 1992;82(7):1020–3.
 Sterling DA, O’Connor JA, Bonadies J. Geriatric falls: injury severity is high and disproportionate to mechanism. Journal of Trauma–Injury, Infection and Critical Care 2001;50(1):116–9.
 Jager TE, Weiss HB, Coben JH, Pepe PE. Traumatic brain injuries evaluated in U.S. emergency departments, 1992–1994. Academic Emergency Medicine 2000&359;7(2):134–40.
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