Open Access Research article

Falls among community-residing stroke survivors following inpatient rehabilitation: a descriptive analysis of longitudinal data

Laura M Wagner12*, Victoria L Phillips3, Amanda E Hunsaker4 and Pamela G Forducey5

Author Affiliations

1 The Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied Research Unit Baycrest 3560 Bathurst Street, 736 7th Floor Toronto, ON, M6A 2E1, Canada

2 University of Toronto, Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, Toronto, ON, Canada

3 Department of Health Policy and Management, Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA

4 School of Social Work, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

5 INTEGRIS Southwest Medical Center Neuroscience and TeleHealth, INTEGRIS Southwest Medical Center, Oklahoma City, OK, USA

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BMC Geriatrics 2009, 9:46  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-9-46

Published: 14 October 2009

Abstract

Background

Stroke victims are at relatively high risk for injurious falls. The purpose of this study was to document longitudinal fall patterns following inpatient rehabilitation for first-time stroke survivors.

Methods

Participants (n = 231) were recruited at the end of their rehab stay and interviewed monthly via telephone for 1 to 32 months regarding fall incidents. Analyses were conducted on: total reports of falls by month over time for first-time and repeat fallers, the incidence of falling in any given month; and factors differing between fallers and non fallers.

Results

The largest percentage of participants (14%) reported falling in the first month post-discharge. After month five, less than 10% of the sample reported falling, bar months 15 (10.4%) and 23 (13.2%). From months one to nine, the percentage of those reporting one fall with and without a prior fall were similar. After month nine, the number of individuals who reported a single fall with a fall history was twice as high compared to those without a prior fall who reported falling. In both cases the percentages were small. A very small subset of the population emerged who fell multiple times each month, most of whom had a prior fall history. At least a third of the sample reported a loss of balance each month. Few factors differed significantly between fallers and non-fallers in months one to six.

Conclusion

Longitudinal data suggest that falls most likely linked to first time strokes occur in the first six months post discharge, particularly month one. Data routinely available at discharge does not distinguish fallers from non-fallers. Once a fall incident has occurred however, preventive intervention is warranted.