OBJECTIVE: We aimed to determine if abnormal laboratory values which may indicate volume depletion are associated with increased odds of experiencing a hospital-acquired fall.
DESIGN: Matched case-control study.
SETTING: Four hospitals located in the Southeast USA.
PARTICIPANTS: Data from 699 adult fallers and 1189 matched controls (non-fallers) were collected via chart review from 2005 to 2010. Controls were matched to cases by nursing unit, time of fall and length of stay.
OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary exposures included serum sodium, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, BUN/creatinine ratio and haematocrit. Conditional logistic regression with m:n matching was used to determine adjusted and unadjusted ORs.
RESULTS: Serum sodium levels were strongly associated with falls. In models controlling for demographic and other fall risk factors, patients with serum sodium levels of 125 mEq/L or less were associated with increased odds of experiencing a fall as compared with those with serum sodium levels of greater than 134 mEq/L (adjusted OR (aOR)=5.08, 95% CI 1.43 to 18.08). Conversely, elevated BUN, creatinine and elevated BUN/creatinine ratios were not associated with increased odds of experiencing a fall (aOR=0.64, 95% CI 0.49 to 0.84; aOR=0.70, 95% CI 0.54 to 0.92 and aOR=0.77, 95% CI 0.58 to 1.04, respectively.) CONCLUSIONS: Laboratory indices that may indicate volume depletion appear to be unrelated to falls. However, hyponatraemia does appear to be a risk factor for falls, and those with serum sodium levels below 126 mEq/L are at especially high risk. It may be that other deficits associated with hyponatraemia, like altered mental status, are associated with risk of experiencing a hospital-acquired fall. These results indicate that abnormal laboratory values, like low sodium, can be useful for identifying hospitalised patients at risk of falling. Therefore, further investigation into abnormal laboratory values as predictors of hospital-acquired falls is warranted.