Laurie Barclay, MD
January 29, 2010 — Vitamin D supplementation and pharmacist review of medications may help reduce falls in elderly nursing home residents, according to the results of a systematic review reported online January 20 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
"Falls in nursing care facilities and hospitals are common events that cause considerable morbidity and mortality for older people," write Ian D. Cameron, from Sydney Medical School, the University of Sydney in Ryde, Australia, and colleagues.
The goal of this review was to determine the efficacy of interventions aiming to reduce falls by older people in nursing care facilities and hospitals. The reviewers searched the Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group Specialised Register (January 2009); the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library 2008, Issue 2); MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CINAHL (all to November 2008); trial registers; and bibliographies of retrieved articles.
Criteria for inclusion in the review were randomized controlled trials of interventions designed to reduce falls in older people in nursing care facilities or hospitals, with main study endpoints of fall rate and the risk of falling. Methodologic quality of the trials was independently evaluated by 2 reviewers, who also extracted and pooled data where appropriate.
There were 41 trials, enrolling a total of 25,422 participants, meeting selection criteria. Findings from 7 trials testing supervised exercise interventions in nursing care facilities were inconsistent. Overall, multifactorial interventions were not associated with a significantly lower rate of falls in 7 trials enrolling a total of 2997 participants or with a lower risk of falling in 8 trials enrolling a total of 3271 participants.
However, multifactorial interventions provided by a multidisciplinary team were associated with lower rate of falls in nursing home residents (rate ratio [RaR], 0.60; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.51 - 0.72; 4 trials, n = 1651) and risk of falling (risk ratio [RR], 0.85; 95% CI, 0.77 - 0.95; 5 trials, n = 1925), based on a post hoc subgroup analysis.
Vitamin D supplementation in nursing home residents was associated with a lower rate of falls (RaR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.55 - 0.95; 4 trials, n = 4512) but not with the risk of falling (RR, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.89 - 1.09; 5 trials, n = 5095).
Multifactorial interventions in hospitals for patients with a length of stay of 3 weeks or more were associated with a lower rate of falls (RaR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.49 - 0.96; 4 trials, n = 6478) and the risk of falling (RR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.56 - 0.96; 3 trials, n = 4824). In addition, supervised exercise interventions were associated with a significant decrease in the risk of falling (RR, 0.44; 95% CI, 0.20 - 0.97; 3 trials, n = 131).
"There is evidence that multifactorial interventions reduce falls and risk of falling in hospitals and may do so in nursing care facilities," the review authors write. "Vitamin D supplementation is effective in reducing the rate of falls in nursing care facilities. Exercise in subacute hospital settings appears effective but its effectiveness in nursing care facilities remains uncertain."
Limitations of this review include those inherent in the selected studies, such as lack of blinding, confounding because of differences in treatment and control groups at entry, differences in underlying care programs, poorly defined inclusion and exclusion criteria and falling events, and differences in ascertainment of falls.
"Falls prevention programmes that include exercises for frail nursing care facility residents should carefully assess each individual's suitability, as there is the possibility that exercise programmes may increase their risk of falls," the review authors conclude. "The choice of type of exercises may be important in avoiding an increase in falls. The rate of falls and number of fallers should be monitored before and after adopting an intervention because it might increase falls."