Fall is Coming, Every Second of Every Day

By Scott LaFee

October 12, 2016 6 min read

Every second of every day, an older American falls, making falling the number one cause of injuries and death in the United States for people age 65 and older. In 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control, older Americans experienced 29 million falls, resulting in 7 million injuries, 2.8 million visits to the emergency room, 800,000 hospitalizations and 27,000 deaths. The related annual Medicare cost alone for 2014 was estimated to be $31 billion.

With more than 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 each day, the number of fall-related injuries and deaths is expected to surge, with ever greater consequences.

Most adult falls are preventable, say health experts, who urge doctors and older patients to make fall prevention a higher priority, from regular assessments of gait and balance, medication regimes and exercise programs to adapting homes and lifestyles to minimize risks.

"Older adult falls are increasing and, sadly, often herald the end of independence," said CDC director Tom Frieden. "Healthcare providers can make fall prevention a routine part of care in their practice, and older adults can take steps to protect themselves."

Practice Pays

Traditionally, most physicians have been independent businessmen. They hang their shingles and begin treating patients as sole proprietors. But surveys show more and more doctors are opting to become salaried employees in the hospitals where they work.

The question is: Does this trend improve patient care?

The answer, according to a new study in Annals of Internal Medicine: Not really.

Researchers looked at metrics like mortality, readmission rates (an indication that a problem wasn't truly resolved) and patient satisfaction between physicians who worked independently and those who worked for hospitals. Switching to an employment model didn't really change things.

Body of Knowledge

The average person flexes his or her finger joints 25 million times in a lifetime.

Life in Big Macs

One hour of sitting playing cards burns 102 calories (based on a 150-pound person) or the equivalent of 0.1 Big Macs. You can burn up twice as many calories (204 per hour) if you go fish — literally.

Counts

1.5: Tax per ounce, in cents, of Philadelphia's sugary drink tax, set to take effect Jan. 1, 2017

92: Estimated annual revenue, in millions of dollars, of city's sugary drink tax, which would be spent on kindergarten care and other citywide efforts

Source: STAT

Doc Talk

Calcium oxalate stone: a kidney stone

Phobia of the Week

Homichlophobia: fear of fog

Never Say Diet

The Major League Eating record for whole roasted turkey is 6.91 pounds in 8 minutes, held by Patrick Bertoletti. Needless to say, at the end of the event, it wasn't just the turkeys who were stuffed.

Best Medicine

Good advice: Condoms should be used on every conceivable occasion.

Observation

"Life is something to do when you can't get to sleep." —American author Fran Lebowitz

Medical History

This week in 1928, the "Iron Lung" was used by its first patient, a young girl at Children's Hospital in Boston. It was an artificial respirator that enabled her to breathe despite being paralyzed by polio. This negative pressure ventilator, invented by a young Harvard doctor named Philip Drinker, was the first widely used device of its kind. From the neck down, the patient's body lay in a sealed galvanized iron box. The 3-foot-by-7-foot, 700-lb apparatus was powered by two household vacuum cleaners. As air was pumped out of the metal box, the patient's lungs drew in air, which was expelled as the air pump cycle next increased pressure, in a cycle to mimic a normal breathing rate.

Self-Exam

Q: Pyrosis is the technical term for which common complaint?

a) Back pain

b) Heartburn

c) Headache

d) Tooth sensitivity

A: Heartburn, though the condition has nothing to do with the actual heart and involves irritation and inflammation of esophagus and stomach.

Med School

Q: What is heterochromia?

A: It is a condition, congenital or acquired, in which a person has irises of two different colors or shades. Most cases are hereditary. They may be associated with a congenital syndrome or other health problem, but often are not connected to any other issue. The incidence of congenital heterchromia iridus is roughly six in 1,000 births. Usually the difference is barely noticeable. It happens much more often in some species of canines, and more dramatically, with one eye brown and the other blue.

Curtain Calls

In 1919, 21 people were killed and 150 injured in what became known as the Boston Molasses Disaster, which occurred when a massive tank containing 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst, sending a wave down adjacent streets at speeds approaching 35 miles per hour.

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