Systematic review of fall risk screening tools for older patients in acute hospitals

J Adv Nurs. 2015 Jun;71(6):1198-209. doi: 10.1111/jan.12542. Epub 2014 Oct 7.


Aims: To determine the most accurate fall risk screening tools for predicting falls among patients aged 65 years or older admitted to acute care hospitals.

Background: Falls represent a serious problem in older inpatients due to the potential physical, social, psychological and economic consequences. Older inpatients present with risk factors associated with age-related physiological and psychological changes as well as multiple morbidities. Thus, fall risk screening tools for older adults should include these specific risk factors. There are no published recommendations addressing what tools are appropriate for older hospitalized adults.

Design: Systematic review.

Data sources: MEDLINE, CINAHL and Cochrane electronic databases were searched between January 1981-April 2013. Only prospective validation studies reporting sensitivity and specificity values were included.

Review methods: Recommendations of the Cochrane Handbook of Diagnostic Test Accuracy Reviews have been followed.

Results: Three fall risk assessment tools were evaluated in seven articles. Due to the limited number of studies, meta-analysis was carried out only for the STRATIFY and Hendrich Fall Risk Model II. In the combined analysis, the Hendrich Fall Risk Model II demonstrated higher sensitivity than STRATIFY, while the STRATIFY showed higher specificity. In both tools, the Youden index showed low prognostic accuracy.

Conclusion: The identified tools do not demonstrate predictive values as high as needed for identifying older inpatients at risk for falls. For this reason, no tool can be recommended for fall detection. More research is needed to evaluate fall risk screening tools for older inpatients.

Keywords: accidental falls; aged; hospital; nursing; patients; risk assessment; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls*
  • Aged
  • Hospitals, Public*
  • Humans
  • Inpatients*
  • Italy
  • Risk Assessment