Syncope, a fairly common fainting condition that can result in dangerous falls and injuries especially in the elderly, can be an underlying factor in a number of orthopedic incidents. As an orthopedic surgeon, I regularly see people (especially older patients) with significant injuries caused by vertigo, falls, or fainting. Broken hips, injured wrists or ankles, and spinal injuries are all commonly found in patients with balance or fainting problems. What can be done to minimize the risk of broken bones and other problems resulting from this common concern?
Syncope Risks and Treatments
According to practitioner records, syncope patients make up nearly three percent of ER visits and between one and six percent of all U.S. hospital admissions each year. The numbers are much higher for older adults, especially those over 70, possibly contributed to by the impact of multiple prescription drugs and their unpredictable interactions.
While orthopedic surgeons like myself are often responsible for treating fall-related injuries in seniors, physicians of other specialties can improve diagnostic success rates by employing a host of blood pressure and cardiac tests that may indicate syncope disorders. Knowing your risk is half the battle, and being aware of a tendency to fall or faint may help you take the proper precautions. Pacemakers, antihypertensive therapies, and simple lifestyle changes such as postural training, compression stockings and increasing salt intake may all help control or reduce the symptoms of syncope.
If you believe you or a loved one may have a fainting condition, it is important to seek medical care immediately and get an accurate diagnosis. Taking proactive steps, including strengthening the joints through preventative care, may help lower the risk of significant orthopedic injuries common among older adults.