Falls are a significant cause of morbidity and morality. Examples of injuries resulting from falls include fractures and intracranial bleeding. People often never fully recover to their prior level of function, and may not survive at all.

Some populations are at greater risk than others. The largest at risk group is the fastest growing demographic, the geriatric population. There are also many other patient populations that would benefit from fall prevention including the neurologically impaired patient. One example of a neurologically impaired patient is someone with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Another is the stroke patient.

Early intervention to those at risk can make all the difference in avoiding a fall and any other associated morbidity and mortality.

The Fall Prevention Program at the Cooper Neurological Institute (CNI) offers an expert multidisciplinary environment to identify, reduce or eliminate treatable underlying causes of the patient's risks for falls. The mission statement is to prevent the falls of patients who are at risk in the community we serve, with the goal to improve their quality of life.

Utilizing a team of physiatrists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, and orthopaedists, as well as referral to other specialists including internal medicine, family medicine, endocrinologists, rheumatologists, cardiologists and others, our goal is to determine the optimal course of treatment for a variety of gait and balance-related conditions to prevent falls and the associated loss of function and illness that may be caused from a fall. The patient is also considered at vital team member.

Who Should Be Treated for Fall Prevention?

There are many symptoms and conditions that would prompt someone to participate in a fall prevention program. These include:

  • Gait dysfunction (difficulty walking, history of falls)
  • Gait dysfunction with a history of stroke (difficulty walking)
  • Balance dysfunction (history of falls)
  • Neuropathy (numbness or tingling in the lower extremities)
  • Diabetes (numbness or tingling in the lower extremities)
  • Cervical arthritis (neck pain)
  • Dizziness
  • Benign positional vertigo (dizziness with positional head changes)
  • Orthostasis (dizziness upon rising from a chair)

Treatment Options

Once a patient’s fall risk factors have been identified, individual treatment plans will be initiated. The team’s treatment goal is to reduce or eliminate the fall risk factors, therefore to decrease the risk to falls and associated morbidity and mortality. Treatment options will vary from patient to patient, but could include:

  • Physical therapy referral to a physical therapist with a background in balance dysfunction
  • Medication management of dizziness
  • Primary care referral to internal medicine, family medicine
  • Specialty Medical Service referral to identify and reduce risk factors. Specialists include neurologists, neurosurgeons, orthopaedists, endocrinologists, rheumatologists, and cardiologists.
  • Assistive devices including a cane or walker to improve stability. In certain cases prosthetics and orthotics may be prescribed
  • Patient education on injury avoidance, such as proper biomechanics and home safety