Over One Million Stair-Related Injuries Treated in ERs Each Year

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Gary Smith, MD, DrPH Director, Center for Injury Research and Policy Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus, OH

Dr. Smith

Gary Smith, MD, DrPH
Director, Center for Injury Research and Policy
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Columbus, OH

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Previous studies have documented the frequency and characteristics of stair-related injuries among children and older adults. Numerous studies have examined gait characteristics of different age groups and their relationship to falls. In addition, it is estimated that the direct medical and indirect costs of non-fatal stair-related injuries are $92 billion annually in the US.

The current study investigates the epidemiological characteristics of stair-related injuries among all ages using a nationally representative sample over a multi-year period. Our study also expands upon prior research on this topic to investigate the mechanisms of stair-related injuries and examine trends.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: An estimated 24,760,843 patients were treated in emergency departments for a stair-related injury during the 23-year study period, averaging 1,076,558 patients annually, or about one person every 30 seconds.

Although the highest injury rates occurred among younger children and older adults, the majority (67.2%) of emergency department visits for stair-related injuries was by individuals 11-60 years old. Most patients were female (62.4%), who also had a higher injury rate than males. Sprains and strains (32.3%), soft tissue injuries (23.8%), and broken bones (19.3%) were the most common types of injury. The body regions most frequently injured were the lower extremities (42.1%) and head/neck (21.6%). Patients 10 years old and younger experienced more head/neck injuries. Older adult patients more frequently sustained broken bones than younger age groups.

The majority (93.8%) of patients were examined/treated and released from the emergency department and 5.7% of injuries resulted in hospitalization. More than one-half of the injuries requiring hospitalization were fractures (59.4%), and an additional 14.2% were concussions/closed head injuries.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Stairs are a common source of injury among individuals of all ages and the frequency and rate of stair-related injuries are increasing. This underscores the need for increased prevention efforts, particularly those related to stair design and construction. 

Prevention strategies include revising building codes and updating existing stairways to comply with geometric dimensions recommended for optimal safety, ensuring uniformity of all stairs in a stairway, and installation of stair rails that allow for use of a power grip. Individuals can help prevent injuries by keeping stairways clear of clutter and trip hazards, ensuring that stairways are well-lit, and reducing multi-tasking while navigating the stairs.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: The trends of stair-related injuries should continue to be monitored and specific safety interventions should be evaluated to help inform prevention efforts. 

Disclosures: Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (grant #1R49CE002106) and Child Injury Prevention Alliance, while she worked on this study. The interpretations and conclusions in this article do not necessarily represent those of the funding organizations

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Stair-related injuries treated in United States emergency departments
Danielle Herbert Blazewick, MD, Thitphalak Chounthirath, MS, Nichole L. Hodges, PhD, Christy L. Collins, PhD, Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH

The American Journal of Emergency Medicine
Available online 20 September 2017

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions. 

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Last Updated on September 26, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD