Falls in the general hospital: association with delirium, advanced age, and specific surgical procedures

Psychosomatics. May-Jun 2009;50(3):218-26. doi: 10.1176/appi.psy.50.3.218.


Background: Falls and delirium in general-hospital inpatients are related to increases in morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs. Patients fall despite safeguards and programs to reduce falling.

Objective: The authors sought to determine the prevalence of diagnosed and undiagnosed delirium in patients who fell during their hospital stay.

Method: The authors performed a retrospective electronic chart review of 252 patients who fell during their hospital stay. Falls were categorized by their severity (i.e., minor, moderate, and major). Demographic information, patient outcomes, and diagnostic criteria for delirium (per DSM-IV) were collected on the day of admission, the day of the fall, and the 2 days preceding the patient's fall.

Results: Falls in the general hospital were associated with delirium (both diagnosed and undiagnosed), advanced age, and specific surgical procedures.

Conclusion: Improving the recognition of undiagnosed delirium may lead to sustainable and successful fall prevention programs. Detection of impairments in mental status can assist staff to create individualized patient care plans. Knowledge about which patients are at risk for injury from delirium and falls can lead to improvements in patient safety, functioning, and quality of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delirium / diagnosis
  • Delirium / epidemiology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Hospitals, General / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control