The mortality of childhood falls

J Trauma. 1989 Sep;29(9):1273-5. doi: 10.1097/00005373-198909000-00015.


Falls accounted for 5.9% of the childhood deaths due to trauma in a review of the medical examiner's files in a large urban county. Falls represented the seventh leading cause of traumatic death in all children 15 years of age or younger, but the third leading cause of death in children 1 to 4 years old. The mean age of those with accidental falls was 2.3 years, which is markedly younger than that seen in hospital admission series, suggesting that infants are much more likely to die from a fall than older children. Forty-one per cent of the deaths occurred from "minor" falls such as falls from furniture or while playing; 50% were falls from a height of one story or greater; the remainder were falls down stairs. Of children falling from less than five stories, death was due to a lethal head injury in 86%. Additionally, 61.3% of the children with head injuries had mass lesions which would have required acute neurosurgical intervention. The need for an organized pediatric trauma system is demonstrated as more than one third of the children were transferred to another hospital, with more than half of these deteriorating during the delay. Of the patients with "minor" falls, 38% had parental delay in seeking medical attention, with deterioration of all. The trauma system must also incorporate the education of parents and medical personnel to the potential lethality of "minor" falls in infants and must legislate injury prevention programs.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / mortality*
  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Accidents / mortality*
  • Age Factors
  • Allied Health Personnel / education
  • Chicago
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / mortality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Parents / education
  • Time Factors
  • Transportation of Patients