Older adults who were on recent opioid medication were found to have an increased risk of falls and an increased risk of death, in a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Falls are a leading cause of injury and death in older adults. However, evidence for a link between opioid use and falls is inconsistent.
‘Falls are one of the main causes of injury and death in older adults. Recent opioid use, those like painkillers, was found to increase the risk of falls and death in older people.’
The study included data on 67 929 patients aged 65 and older who were admitted for injury to one of 57 trauma centres in the province of Quebec. The mean age of patients was 81 years, and the majority -- 69% -- were women. Falls were the most common cause of injury (92% of patients), and more than half (59%) had surgery for their injuries, with lengthy hospital stays (median stay of 12 days).
Researchers looked at opioid prescriptions in the preceding 2 weeks before injury and found that the patients who had filled an opioid prescription during this period were 2.4 times more likely to have had a fall causing injury. Patients whose falls were linked to opioid use were also more likely to die during their hospital stay.
"This study confirms an association between recent opioid use and fall-related injury in a large trauma population of older adults," writes Dr. Raoul Daoust, Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal and the Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, with coauthors. "Physicians should be aware that prescribing opioids to older patients is not only associated with an increased risk of falls, but also, if these patients do fall, a higher in-hospital mortality rate," conclude the authors.
"Recent opioid use and fall-related injury among older patients with trauma" is published April 23, 2018.