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Elderly Deaths Due to Ground-Level Falls

Chisholm, Karen M. MD, PhD*; Harruff, Richard C. MD, PhD

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: December 2010 - Volume 31 - Issue 4 - p 350-354
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e3181f69c87
Original Articles

This study analyzed 237 fatal ground-level falls occurring in decedents aged 65 years or older reported to the Seattle-King County Medical Examiner's Office during the year 2007. Head injuries accounted for 109 (46%) of the deaths, and nonhead injuries accounted for 128 (54%) of the deaths. Falls occurred in similar locations in both groups. Compared with those of nonhead injuries, decedents of head injuries were younger (82 vs 87.5 years), were more often male (58% vs 45%), died sooner after their injury (9 days vs 23 days), and were more likely treated with anticoagulants, especially warfarin (48% vs 16%). Subdural hematoma was the most common specific traumatic lesion, occurring in 86% of the decedents of head injury; skull fractures occurred in 13%. Decedents of head injury who were treated with anticoagulants, on average, sustained less severe head injury than those who were not treated with anticoagulants.

From the Departments of *Pathology, and Medicine, Division of Medical Genetics, University of Washington; and †King County Medical Examiner's Office, Public Health-Seattle and King County, Seattle, WA.

Manuscript received September 3, 2008; accepted October 14, 2008.

K.M.C. was supported by grant F30 ES13069 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, NC, through the Division of Medical Genetics, Department of Medicine, University of Washington. K.M.C. was also a recipient of the Medical Scientist Training Program grant NIGMS GM07266, through the Department of Pathology, University of Washington.

The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or other funding agencies.

Reprints: Richard C. Harruff, MD, PhD, Department of Pathology, Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, CA, 94305. E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.