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Brain Injuries Leading Cause of Accidental Death In The Elderly

A new CDC study has found that brain injuries account for half of all deaths from falls.

The study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the first comprehensive national look at the role brain injuries play in fatal elderly falls. It examined 16,000 deaths in 2005 that listed unintentional falls as an underlying cause of death.

CDC researchers found that slightly more than half of the deaths were attributed to brain injuries. The other deaths were due to a variety of causes including heart failure, strokes, infections and existing chronic conditions worsened by a broken hip or other injuries sustained in a fall.

Each year, one in three Americans age 65 and older fall. About 30 percent of such falls require medical treatment.

The severity of brain injuries isn't always immediately apparent, and some people may not lose consciousness. One study author noted a scenario seen in hospitals in which an elderly fall victim comes in alert and talking, but dies an hour or two later.

The study also found that deaths and hospitalization rates for fall-related brain injuries increased with age. Brain injuries accounted for about 8 percent of hospital stays for non-fatal falls.

The research is being published in the June issue of a scientific publication, the Journal of Safety Research.

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