Kyphosis and incident falls among community-dwelling older adults
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Hyperkyphosis commonly affects older persons and is associated with morbidity and mortality. Many have hypothesized that hyperkyphosis increases fall risk. Within this prospective study of older adults, kyphosis was significantly associated with incident falls over 1 year. Measures of hyperkyphosis could enhance falls risk assessments during primary care office visits. INTRODUCTION: To determine the association between four measures of kyphosis and incident and injurious falls in older persons. METHODS: Community-dwelling adults aged 65 and older (n = 72) residing in southern California were invited to participate in a prospective cohort study. Participants had kyphosis assessed four ways. Two standing measures included a flexicurve ruler placed against the back to derive a kyphotic index and the Debrunner kyphometer, a protractor used to measure the kyphotic angle in degrees. Two lying measures included the blocks method (number of 1.7 cm blocks needed to achieve a neutral head position while lying supine) and traditional Cobb angle calculation derived from DXA based lateral vertebral assessment. Baseline demographic, clinical, and other health information (including a timed up and go (TUG) test) were assessed at a clinic visit. Participants were followed monthly through email or postcard for 1 year, with falls outcomes confirmed through telephone interview. RESULTS: Mean age was 77.8 (+/- 7.1) among the 52 women and 20 men. Over 12 months, 64% of participants experienced at least one incident fall and 35% experienced an injurious fall. Each standard deviation increase in kyphosis resulted in more than doubling the adjusted odds of an incident fall, even after adjusting for TUG. Odds of injurious falls were less consistent across measures; after adjusting for TUG, only the blocks method was associated with injurious falls. CONCLUSIONS: Each kyphosis measure was independently associated with incident falls. Findings were inconsistent for injurious falls; the blocks measure suggested the strongest association. If these findings are replicated, the blocks measure could be incorporated into office visits as a quick and efficient tool to identify patients at increased fall risk.
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