Spinal fractures incurred by a fall from standing height

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2019 Feb;177:106-113. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2019.01.005. Epub 2019 Jan 7.


Objective: Falls from standing are common, particularly amongst the aging population, due to declining mobility, proprioception and vision. They are often complicated by fragility fractures, including vertebral fractures, that are associated with significant morbidity and may represent a pre-terminal condition with high one-year mortality rates.

Patients and methods: A retrospective review of the Trauma Audit and Research Network database for a major trauma centre was conducted for all patients admitted between January 2011 and December 2016. Patients with a spinal fracture and a confirmed fall from standing height were eligible for inclusion. Case notes were reviewed for demographics, Injury Severity Score, Charlson co-morbidity score, treatment, complications and outcomes.

Results: Of 1408 patients with a spine fracture admitted during the study period, 229 (16.3%) were confirmed to be secondary to a fall from standing height. The average age of this cohort was 76.6 ± 14.5 years and 134 (58.5%) cases were female. The average ISS score was 9.7 ± 5.4. The 229 patients sustained 283 fractures with a distribution of: cervical (n = 140), thoracic (n = 65) and lumbar (n = 78) spine. Fifty-six (24.5%) patients underwent surgical intervention. Forty-three patients (18.7%) died within 6 months of admission and all-cause mortality was significantly higher in patients with increasing age and Charlson co-morbidity score.

Conclusion: Spinal fractures due to a fall from standing height represent one sixth of the fracture workload of the emergency spinal service at a major trauma centre. Whilst the majority of patients can be managed conservatively there are still considerable implications for hospital bed usage and patient mortality.

Keywords: Falls; Spine fractures; Trauma audit and research network.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries
  • Cervical Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / surgery*
  • Spinal Fractures / epidemiology
  • Spinal Fractures / surgery*
  • Trauma Centers / statistics & numerical data