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Falls in frequent neurological diseases

Prevalence, risk factors and aetiology

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The prevalence of falls among neurological patients is unknown, although disturbances of gait and posture are common. Falls may lead to burdens for the patient, the caregivers and the health system. We designed a prospective study and investigated all patients for a history of falls admitted to a neurological hospital during a 100-day period. Clinical investigation was carried out and several disease specific rating scales were applied. A total of 548 patients were investigated. Of all patients 34% had fallen once or more often during the last twelve months. A disturbance of gait was blamed for the fall in 55%, epileptic seizures in 12%, syncope in 10 % and stroke in 7%. Intrinsic risk factors for falls were high age, disturbed gait, poor balance and a fear of falling. As extrinsic factors we identified the treatment with antidepressants, neuroleptics and different cardiovascular medications, adverse environmental factors in the patients’ home and the use of walking aids. Within the diagnoses, falls were most frequent in Parkinson’s disease (62 %), syncope (57%) and polyneuropathy (48 %). According to these findings falls in neurological in-patients are twice as frequent as in an age-matched population living in the community. Falls in neurological patients are particularly linked to medication and disorders affecting gait and balance.

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Correspondence to Günther Deuschl.

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Stolze, H., Klebe, S., Zechlin, C. et al. Falls in frequent neurological diseases. J Neurol 251, 79–84 (2004).

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