INTRODUCTION: The aim of this retrospective study was to quantify and characterize contacts to the acute emergency department due to fall accidents among elderly aged 65 years and above at H:S Hvidovre hospital in Copenhagen during a three-month period. Data on demographics, injuries and admission rates were collected along with follow-up data during the six months after the index contact. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Case records from patients aged 65 years and above seen in the emergency department from July 1st to September 30th 2001 were examined. Patients with documented falls as primary cause of contact were included. Via a central database the use of emergency department, admissions to hospital and mortality during the next six months were monitored. RESULTS: During the three-month period, 535 elderly persons (582 visits) were seen in the acute emergency department because of a fall. Of these 186 (32%) had a fracture. A total of 39% of the patients were admitted to hospital. Among the elderly who returned directly to their home from the emergency department, 37% had no planned appointment for follow-up in the social or health care system. The next six months saw 215 contacts to acute emergency departments and 444 hospital admissions (including the first admission). The contacts and admissions generated 8,310 bed-days. The six-month mortality was 13%. CONCLUSION: The results document the frailty of a considerable proportion of the elderly who contact the acute emergency department because of a fall. About half of the elderly returning home directly from hospital have no planned follow-up. A more structured assessment and collaboration between hospital and primary health care is needed in order to prevent further falls among the elderly.
Keywords: Accidental Falls; Aged; Aged, 80 and over; Denmark; Emergency Service, Hospital; Female; Follow-Up Studies; Humans; Male; Patient Admission; Retrospective Studies; Wounds and Injuries