Risk Factors for Falls in Patients with COPD

December 14, 2015
Rachel Lutz

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients face risk factors related to falling such as comorbidities, smoking, history and/ or fear of falling, and number of medications.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients face risk factors related to falling such as comorbidities, smoking, history and/ or fear of falling, and number of medications, according to findings published in the journal Respirology.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia included 41 stable COPD patients aged an average of 71 years in a study examining forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV 1) in order to investigate the prevalence rate, incidence rate, and associated risk factors for falls in a population of COPD patients. Data was collected from the patients centering on demographic information, physical function, and fall related measures. The patients were observed for 12 months and documented their falls.

Two in five patients from the study cohort had falls over the observation period, and three quarters of those patients had frequent falls. The overall fall incidence rate was 1.17 falls per person years, the researchers said. Smoking, number of pack years, comorbidities, number of medications, history of falls in the previous year, fear of falling, and higher score in a fall risk assessment questionnaire for older adults were all associated with higher fall incidence rate ratios. However, only pack years, number of comorbidities, and history of falls were related to an increased fall incidence rate ratio when the researchers adjusted for age.

“These preliminary findings demonstrated the fall prevalence and incidence rate in community dwelling people with stable COPD and identified prospective risk factors for an increased fall incidence, which suggest potential mitigation strategies,” the study authors wrote.

The researchers commented that the previous research into this topic suggests an increased risk of falls for COPD patients, but does not dictate a reason why. Additionally, they wrote that these findings may influence future preventative strategies.