Introduction: The Canadian population is aging and an increasing proportion of emergency department (ED) patients are seniors. ED visits among seniors are frequently instigated by a fall at home. Some of these patients develop intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) because of falling. There has been little research on the frequency of ICH in elderly patients who fall, and on which clinical factors are associated with ICH in these patients. The aim of this study was to identify the incidence of ICH, and the clinical features which are associated with ICH, in seniors who present to the ED having fallen. Methods: This was a prospective cohort study conducted in three EDs. Patients were included if they were age >65 years, and presented to the ED within 48 hours of a fall on level ground, off a bed/chair/toilet or down one step. Patients were excluded if they fell from a height, were knocked over by a vehicle or were assaulted. ED physicians recorded predefined clinical findings (yes/no) before any head imaging was done. Head imaging was done at the ED physician's discretion. All patients were followed for 6 weeks (both by telephone call and chart review at 6 weeks) for evidence of ICH. Associations between baseline clinical findings and the presence of ICH were assessed with multivariable logistic regression. Results: In total, 1753 patients were enrolled. The prevalence of ICH was 5.0% (88 patients), of whom 74 patients had ICH on the ED CT scan and 14 had ICH diagnosed during follow-up. 61% were female and the median age was 82 (interquartile range 75-88). History included hypertension in 76%, diabetes in 29%, dementia in 27%, stroke/TIA in 19%, major bleeding in 11% and chronic kidney disease in 11%. 35% were on antiplatelet therapy and 25% were on an anticoagulant. Only 4 clinical variables were independently associated with ICH: bruise/laceration on the head (odds ratio (OR): 4.3; 95% CI 2.7-7.0), new abnormalities on neurological examination (OR: 4.4; 2.4-8.1), chronic kidney disease (OR: 2.4; 1.3-4.6) and reduced GCS from baseline (OR: 1.9; 1.0-3.4). Neither anticoagulation (OR: 0.9; 0.5-1.6) nor antiplatelet use (OR: 1.1; 0.6-1.8) appeared to be associated with ICH. Conclusion: This prospective study found a prevalence of ICH of 5.0% in seniors after a fall, and that bruising on the head, abnormal neurological examination, abnormal GCS and chronic kidney disease were predictive of ICH.
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