Practical and validated tool to assess falls risk in the primary care setting: A systematic review

Wytske M.A. Meekes*, Joke C Korevaar, Chantal J Leemrijse, Ien A.M. Van de Goor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Although several falls risk assessment tools are available, it is unclear which have been validated and which would be most suitable for primary care practices. This systematic review aims to identify the most suitable falls risk assessment tool for the primary care setting (ie, requires limited time, no expensive equipment and no additional space) and that has good predictive performance in the assessment of falls risk among older people living independently.

A systematic review based on prospective studies.

An extensive search was conducted in the following databases: PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, Cochrane and PsycINFO. Tools were excluded if they required expensive and/or advanced software that is not usually available in primary care units and if they had not been validated in at least three different studies. Of 2492 articles published between January 2000 and July 2020, 27 were included.

Six falls risk assessment tools were identified: Timed Up and Go (TUG) test, Gait Speed test, Berg Balance Scale, Performance Oriented Mobility Assessment, Functional Reach test and falls history. Most articles reported area under the curve (AUC) values ranging from 0.5 to 0.7 for these tools. Sensitivity and specificity varied substantially across studies (eg, TUG, sensitivity:10%–83.3%, specificity:28.4%–96.6%).

Given that none of the falls risk assessment tools had sufficient predictive performance (AUC <0.7), other ways of assessing high falls risk among independently living older people in primary care should be investigated. For now, the most suitable way to assess falls risk in the primary care setting appears to involve asking patients about their falls history. Compared with the other five tools, the falls history requires the least amount of time, no expensive equipment, no training and no spatial adjustments. The clinical judgement of healthcare professionals continues to be most important, as it enables the identification of high falls risk even for patients with no falls history.

Trial registraion number:
The Netherlands Trial Register, NL7917; Pre-results.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere045431
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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