Infections increase risk of patient falls

Infections are often an underlying cause of falls, and not just among the elderly, according to research presented at the IDWeek conference of infectious disease specialists.

Infections often lower blood pressure, causing lightheadedness and dizziness, or increase confusion in elderly patients with dementia, according to an announcement about the Massachusetts General Hospital study.

Urinary tract infections were the most common infections found among patients treated in emergency rooms for falls, according to the study.  About 44 percent of the 161 fall patients with infections had UTIs, while 40 percent had bloodstream infections, 23 percent had respiratory infections and 5.6 percent had heart-valve infections.

Only 20 percent of the patients with infections had fevers, and 56 percent had none or just one of the common signs of infection. In addition, 20 percent of the fall patients who had infections were younger than 65.

"Over the years I've been struck by the fact that some of the more serious infections I treated were in people who came to the hospital because they fell," lead researcher Farrin A. Manian, M.D., a clinician educator in the Division of General Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a visiting associate professor at Harvard Medical School, said in the announcement. "Even though many of the patients had vague early signs of an infection, such as weakness, or lethargy, it was the fall that brought them in."

The study did not analyze the percentage of injury-causing falls linked to infections, but cited other research putting the range at 20 percent to 45 percent.

Patients at high risk for falling rarely see themselves as likely to fall, even when they're in the hospital, FierceHealthcare previously reported. The Joint Commission accrediting agency recently released an online tool and a set of actions healthcare facilities should take to prevent injuries from falls, including establishing an interdisciplinary falls injury prevention team and using a standardized, validated tool to identify risk factors for falls.

For more:
- read the announcement via Science Daily