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Ladders at Fault as Small Falls Lead to Big Trauma for Seniors

Ladders at Fault as Small Falls Lead to Big Trauma for Seniors


Seniors thinking of cleaning out the gutters may need to have second thoughts about how a fall may impact them.

The Institute of Trauma Injury Management (ITIM), NSW’s leading trauma group, is holding forums across the state to show how deadly trauma injuries can be for older citizens.

While road accident trauma is well documented, trauma director of western NSW local health district Dr Brian Burns says falls by the elderly are a danger “the public isn't as aware of”. 

Falls from as little as half a metre in height can be dangerous for the elderly, Dr Burns said, and ladders are the main culprit.

“They’ll think it’s okay to get up a ladder and do their gutters or whatever, but if they fall it can be dangerous,” he said.

Nearly 60 percent of all trauma caused by falls across the state will be in someone over the age of 65.

Those who had been dealt serious chest or head trauma at the age of 75 or more had a fatality rate of 21.3 percent compared to the rest of the population’s 6.6 percent. 

Orange Health Service sees fewer falls than the rest of the state, with 23.8 percent of emergency trauma intakes related to falls, compared with NSW’s average of 30.8 percent.

However, 17 of Orange’s 24 cases of severe trauma received from falls were from those aged 65 or older.

“If you’re over 65 and fracture three ribs or more, it doubles your risk of mortality,” Dr Burns said. 

“So we take rib fractures quite seriously, we give a package to those in intensive care which gives a regional anaesthetic and allows them to breathe deeply and stops them getting pneumonia.”

A conference on trauma at Orange Health Service on Friday, September 15, brought GPs and specialists from around the region to discuss the dangers posed.

Dr Burns said local doctors were one of the best ways to spread the message, but an awareness campaign around ladders and heights for the elderly was also being organised by NSW Health.


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