Background: Osteoporosis and autonomic dysfunction are prevalent in the autoimmune liver disease primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). Postural hypotension is one consequence of autonomic dysfunction and is a recognized risk factor for falls, which, alongside osteoporosis could lead to significant injury and fractures.
Aim: To determine the prevalence and sequelae of falls in PBC and to identify modifiable risk factors.
Design: Cross-sectional, geographical, population census of PBC and two control groups: primary sclerosing cholangitis and a community dwelling population. Multidisciplinary falls assessment of a representative group of PBC.
Methods: Symptom assessment tools, completed by the three cohorts, determined the prevalence of falls, injuries and associated symptoms. Multidisciplinary assessments, adhering to NICE guidelines, identified modifiable fall associations.
Results: Significantly more of the PBC population had fallen (72% P < 0.001) than both control groups. Fifty-five percent had fallen in the last year (P < 0.001), and 22% more than once in the last year (P < 0.01). Seventy percent of PBC fallers were injured, 27% fractured a bone and 19% were admitted to hospital, all significantly more common than controls. Postural dizziness was significantly worse in fallers (P < 0.001), as were balance (P < 0.001) and lower limb strength (P = 0.002). Lower limb strength was independently associated with number of falls in previous year (beta = 0.184, P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Falls and resultant injury are prevalent in PBC and more common than previously recognized. Addressing postural dizziness, poor balance and lower limb weakness using a multidisciplinary approach has the potential to reduce falls, morbidity and mortality and as a result improve quality of life.