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A preliminary study of the effectiveness of an otolaryngology-based multidisciplinary falls prevention clinic

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September 1, 2008
by Lynn S. Alvord, PhD, Michael S. Benninger, MD, and Brad A. Stach, PhD


Because the cause of falls is often multifactorial, efforts to identify risk factors and promote prevention would benefit from a multidisciplinary approach in which the contributions of a broad range of body systems are considered. We describe the practices and procedures followed at the otolaryngology-based multidisciplinary Falls Prevention Clinic at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Our team is made up of an otolaryngologist, an audiologist, an internist, and a physical therapist. Our multidisciplinary approach involves evaluations of vestibular and balance function, cardiovascular function, and visual function; lower-extremity strength and sensation; cognition and mood; and medication use. We also assess a number of nonmedical risk factors. Evaluations are made over the course of two clinic visits. To assess the effectiveness of our approach, we conducted a preliminary study based on chart reviews and telephone interviews of 52 patients who had been referred to our clinic for evaluation and counseling. The basis of our study was a comparison of the number of falls that patients had experienced during the 6 months prior to their first visit to our clinic and the number of falls they experienced during the 6 months after their second visit. We found that among “true fallers” (i.e., those who had actually experienced a fall at some point during the study), 64.7% reported that they had experienced fewer falls after their clinic visits than before (p < 0.001). Also, 59.1% of patients who had been “frequent fallers” prior to their clinic evaluation (i.e., ≥3 falls during the previous 6 mo) reported that they had not fallen at all during the 6 months following their last visit. Finally, our evaluations identified a substantial number of risk factors in individual patients that had been missed previously, including many nonvestibular factors that might not have been detected without a multidisciplinary approach. We conclude that the results of this preliminary study demonstrate the potential that a comprehensive falls prevention clinic can have in reducing the number of falls among outpatients at risk, and we believe that further study is warranted.

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