Falls from ladders: age matters more than height

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Background—Falls from ladders account for a significant number of hospital visits. However, the epidemiology, injury pattern, and how age affects such falls are poorly described in the literature. Materials and methods—Patients ≥18 y who suffered falls from ladders over a 5½-y period were identified in our trauma registry. Dividing patients into three age groups (18–45, 46–65, and >66 y), we compared demographic characteristics, clinical data, and outcomes including injury pattern and mortality. The odds ratios (ORs) were calculated with the group 18–45 y as reference; group means were compared with one-way analysis of variance. Results—Of 27,155 trauma patients, 340 (1.3%) had suffered falls from ladders. The average age was 55 y, with a male predominance of 89.3%. Average fall height was 9.8 ft, and mean Injury Severity Score was 10.6. Increasing age was associated with a decrease in the mean fall height (P < 0.001), an increase in the mean Injury Severity Score (P < 0.05), and higher likelihood of admission (>66 y: OR, 5.3; confidence interval [CI], 2.5–11.5). In univariate analysis, patients in the >66-y age group were more likely to sustain traumatic brain injuries (OR, 3.4; CI, 1.5–7.8) and truncal injuries (OR, 3.6; CI, 1.9–7.0) and less likely to sustain hand and/or forearm fractures (OR, 0.3; CI, 0.1–0.9). Conclusions—Older people are particularly vulnerable after falling from ladders. Although they fell from lower heights, the elderly sustained different and more severe injury patterns. Ladder safety education should be particularly tailored at the elderly.