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“Patient falls are a significant patient safety issue in hospitals and one that has been quite difficult to tackle, despite considerable efforts. That is why it is one of the target aims of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Partnership for Patients project,” says Dr. Timothy I. Morgenthaler, Mayo Clinic’s Chief Patient Safety Officer, who specializes in sleep disorders and pulmonary and critical care.
With this in mind, sleep specialists from the Mayo Clinic set out to study the effects of a drug commonly prescribed and administered in hospital settings to help patients sleep, but which has been associated with an increased risk of falls.
The recently published study included 4,962 patients who were prescribed zolpidem during their hospital stay. What they found was that the fall rate among these patients was four times as high as those patients who were recorded to have not been prescribed zolpidem (11,358 patients).
“Discovering that zolpidem, which is commonly used in hospitals, is a significant risk factor for patient falls provides us with additional knowledge to help tackle this problem,” says Dr. Morgenthaler.
The sleep specialists also found that the risk posed by the drug was greater than the risks posed by factors such as age, cognitive impairment, delirium or insomnia, regardless of the dosage used.
Key findings of the study include: