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More Study Needed on Programs to Prevent Falls in Elderly

Meta-analysis finds scant evidence that interventions prevent falls, but conclusions are qualified by insufficient data

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 19 (HealthDay News) -- There is little evidence to show intervention programs aimed at preventing older people from falling are effective, according to a review of studies published online Dec. 18 in BMJ Online First.

Simon Gates, a principal research fellow at the Warwick Medical School in Coventry, the United Kingdom, and colleagues searched electronic databases for studies that evaluated multifactorial assessment and targeted intervention programs designed to prevent falls or fall-related injuries in emergency departments, primary care facilities or in the community. The final analysis reviewed 19 studies carried out in eight countries and included more than 6,000 participants. The quality of the studies was described as variable.

Overall, no clear effect of interventions was found on the number of fallers or on fall-related injuries. No differences were found in admissions to hospitals, visits to emergency departments, moves to institutional care or deaths. A subgroup analysis found some evidence that intervention programs aimed at reducing risk factors may be more effective than those that provide only knowledge and referral, but that evidence was inconclusive.

"Few large-scale, high-quality randomized controlled trials have yet been carried out," the authors conclude. "Studies are needed that are powered to detect clinically important effects on the number of fall-related injuries, number of people sustaining falls, rates of falls and quality of life, to resolve the uncertainty about the clinical effectiveness and cost effectiveness of this type of intervention."

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