News from the FDA/CDC

TBI deaths from falls on the rise



A 17% surge in mortality from fall-related traumatic brain injuries from 2008 to 2017 was driven largely by increases among those aged 75 years and older, according to investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

U.S. death rate from fall-related traumatic brain injuries

Nationally, the rate of deaths from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) caused by unintentional falls rose from 3.86 per 100,000 population in 2008 to 4.52 per 100,000 in 2017, as the number of deaths went from 12,311 to 17,408, said Alexis B. Peterson, PhD, and Scott R. Kegler, PhD, of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control in Atlanta.

“This increase might be explained by longer survival following the onset of common diseases such as stroke, cancer, and heart disease or be attributable to the increasing population of older adults in the United States,” they suggested in the Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report.

The rate of fall-related TBI among Americans aged 75 years and older increased by an average of 2.6% per year from 2008 to 2017, compared with 1.8% in those aged 55-74. Over that same time, death rates dropped for those aged 35-44 (–0.3%), 18-34 (–1.1%), and 0-17 (–4.3%), they said, based on data from the National Vital Statistics System’s multiple cause-of-death database.

The death rate increased fastest in residents of rural areas (2.9% per year), but deaths from fall-related TBI were up at all levels of urbanization. The largest central cities and fringe metro areas were up by 1.4% a year, with larger annual increases seen in medium-size cities (2.1%), small cities (2.2%), and small towns (2.1%), Dr. Peterson and Dr. Kegler said.

Rates of TBI-related mortality in general are higher in rural areas, they noted, and “heterogeneity in the availability and accessibility of resources (e.g., access to high-level trauma centers and rehabilitative services) can result in disparities in postinjury outcomes.”

State-specific rates increased in 45 states, although Alaska was excluded from the analysis because of its small number of cases (less than 20). Increases were significant in 29 states, but none of the changes were significant in the 4 states with lower rates at the end of the study period, the investigators reported.

“In older adults, evidence-based fall prevention strategies can prevent falls and avert costly medical expenditures,” Dr. Peterson and Dr. Kegler said, suggesting that health care providers “consider prescribing exercises that incorporate balance, strength and gait activities, such as tai chi, and reviewing and managing medications linked to falls.”

SOURCE: Peterson AB, Kegler SR. MMWR. 2019 Mar 6;69(9):225-30.