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Beware of falls during holiday season and beyond

Idaho State Journal - 12/10/2017

Up on the rooftop with ladders and lights, crawling around chimneys, oh what a sight. But, before you lumber up a ladder, it might be wise to take heed of what emergency department doctors know all too well; holiday decorating and ladders can be hazardous.

Statistically, the first and second most common traumatic injuries in our emergency department are falls from heights and motor vehicle accidents.

We see over 150 falls each month; of which approximately 13 of those admitted to our ED are classified as major traumatic injuries.

In fact, for the sixth year in a row, we have cared for more trauma patients than the prior year and we have seen an average increase of over 10 percent per year.

While each of us is at risk for tripping and slipping, especially during the winter months, emergency visits due to falls are a year-round concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of every five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury. More than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways and falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.

Most falls are preventable. Contrary to what some may think, aging itself does not cause falls. However, some issues, commonly associated with aging, can increase an individual’s risk for falling.

Increased risk concerns typically center around three key areas:

n Physical Condition — balance, strength and vision.

n Medical Status — vitamin D, high-risk medications or non-compliance with prescribed medications.

n Environment — clutter, cords, throw rugs and/or lighting.

For those whose struggle with balance, strength or vision concerns, Southeast Idaho Public Health Department offers a Fit and Fall Proof program. For more information about the fit and fall program in Pocatello, call 208-233-9080.

When taking any medications, it is important to discuss usage and side effects with your physician. And for everyone, be proactive and identify and address environmental risk factors.

As we gather together to celebrate the season of snow and the holidays, we at Portneuf Medical Center wish everyone a safe season and encourage fall awareness and prevention.

Drew McRoberts, M.D., is board certified in general surgery. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and is the Chief of Surgery and Trauma Director at Portneuf Medical Center. He has practiced in Pocatello since 1995.

Drew McRoberts


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