While older women are treated for falls more often than elderly males, men are more likely to sustain skull fractures when they topple over, new research suggests.
This is a serious concern because more than 3 million people aged 65 and older are treated in U.S. emergency departments each year for falls.
“The high incidence of head injury and subsequent skull fractures due to falls is a cause for concern as our aging population continues living active lifestyles,” study co-author Dr. Scott Alter, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Florida Atlantic University College of Medicine, said in a university news release.
Head trauma is the leading cause of serious injury, and skull fractures are a serious head trauma outcome, the study authors noted.
About 58% of these falls happen to women, according to the 2016 National Trauma Database annual report.
To study this further, Alter and his colleagues evaluated all patients seen with head trauma at two level-one trauma centers in southeast Florida.
The researchers examined skull fractures due to acute trauma, comparing them by gender, patient race/ethnicity and how the injury happened.
About 56% of the more than 5,400 patients were women. About 85% of the head injuries sustained happened in falls. The women and men had a mean age of about 83 and 81 years, respectively.
Men had a significantly increased incidence of skull fracture secondary to head trauma, due mostly to falls. The researchers noted that the outcome was unexpected because previous research has indicated women were more susceptible to facial fractures.
Although this trend also was seen across races and different ethnic groups, the results were only statistically significant for white people, the investigators found.
“As falls caused the greatest number of head injuries and subsequent skull fractures, fall prevention may be an important intervention to consider" in reducing illness and injury, Alter said.
“Although fall prevention education can be addressed in the primary care setting or at assisted living facilities, the emergency department could also represent an opportunity to educate patients and to prevent future death and disability from falls in this population,” he added.
The report was published in the March issue of the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more on preventing falls in seniors.
SOURCE: Florida Atlantic University, news release, March 8, 2023