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Senior fall injury reduction study appears to be contaminated by control groups adding vitamin D – June 2010

A cluster randomised controlled trial to prevent injury due to falls in a residential aged care population.

Med J Aust. 2010 Mar 15;192(6):319-22.
Ward JA, Harden M, Gibson RE, Byles JE.

Hunter New England Health, Newcastle, New South Wales. John.Ward at hnehealth.nsw.gov.au

OBJECTIVE: To test the effectiveness of using a full-time project nurse to assist residential aged care facilities in using evidence-based approaches to falls injury prevention.

DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Cluster randomised controlled trial involving 5391 residents in 88 aged care facilities in the Hunter and Lower Mid North Coast areas of New South Wales. Residents were followed for 545 days or until death or discharge. Data were collected from July 2005 to June 2007.

INTERVENTION: Employment of a project nurse to encourage best-practice falls injury prevention strategies during the 17-month intervention period.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Monthly data about falls, falls injury and falls injury prevention programs; audit of hospitalisation for fractured neck of femur.

RESULTS: Despite significant increases in the provision of hip protectors and use of vitamin D supplementation in both intervention and control facilities, there was no difference in the number of falls or falls injuries between the intervention and control groups, nor a reduction in falls overall. There was also no difference between the 7-month pre-intervention period and the intervention period in the number of falls or falls injuries. Factors related to residents having an increased risk of falls with fractured neck of femur included being ambulant, having dementia, increasing age, and having a high falls risk assessment score.

CONCLUSION: It is difficult to change falls risk among high-risk populations, including people with dementia. The use of important strategies such as hip protectors and vitamin D and calcium supplementation increased during the study, probably with contamination of control facilities. Longer follow-up may be required to measure the impact on falls outcomes of the strategy of using a facilitating nurse. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12605000540617. PMID: 20230348

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