When falls become fatal-Clinical care sequence. Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVES: This study encompassed fall-related deaths, including those who died prior to medical care, that were admitted to multiple healthcare institutions, regardless of whether they died at home, in long-term care, or in hospice. The common element was that all deaths resulted directly or indirectly from injuries sustained during a fall, regardless of the temporal relationship. This comprehensive approach provides an unusual illustration of the clinical sequence of fall-related deaths. Understanding this pathway lays the groundwork for identification of gaps in healthcare needs. DESIGN: This is a retrospective study of 2014 fall-related deaths recorded by one medical examiner's office (n = 511) within a larger dataset of all trauma related deaths (n = 1848). Decedent demographic characteristics and fall-related variables associated with the deaths were coded and described. RESULTS: Of those falling, 483 (94.5%) were from heights less than 10 feet and 394 (77.1%) were aged 65+. The largest proportion of deaths (n = 267, 52.3%) occurred post-discharge from an acute care setting. Of those who had a documented prior fall, 216 (42.3%) had a history of one fall while 31 (6.1%) had ≥2 falls prior to their fatal incident. For the 267 post-acute care deaths, 440 healthcare admissions were involved in their care. Of 267 deaths occurring post-acute care, 129 (48.3%) were readmitted within 30 days. Preventability, defined as opportunities for improvement in care that may have influenced the outcome, was assessed. Of the 1848 trauma deaths, 511 (27.7%) were due to falls of which 361 (70.6%) were determined to be preventable or potentially preventable. CONCLUSION: Our data show that readmissions and repeated falls are frequent events in the clinical sequence of fall fatalities. Efforts to prevent fall-related readmissions should be a top priority for improving fall outcomes and increasing the quality of life among those at risk of falling.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Drake, S. A., Conway, S. H., Yang, Y., Cheatham, L. S., Wolf, D. A., Adams, S. D., Wade, C. E., & Holcomb, J. B.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Drake, Stacy A||Conway, Sadie H||Yang, Yijiong||Cheatham, Latarsha S||Wolf, Dwayne A||Adams, Sasha D||Wade, Charles E||Holcomb, John B

publication date

  • January 2021