Prevalence of vision loss among hospital in-patients; A risk factor for falls?

TitlePrevalence of vision loss among hospital in-patients; A risk factor for falls?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsLeat, S., A. Zecevic, A. Keeling, D. Hileeto, T. Labreche, and C. Brymer
JournalOphthalmic and Physiological Optics
Keywords80 and over, Accidental Falls, adult, aged, blindness, Canada, Contrast sensitivity, Cross-Sectional Studies, cross-sectional study, falling, Falls, Falls prevention, female, hospital patient, Hospital populations, human, Humans, Inpatients, low vision, male, middle aged, Prevalence, procedures, risk assessment, risk factor, Risk factors, statistics and numerical data, very elderly, Vision loss, Visual acuity, visual impairment, young adult

Purpose: Despite poor vision being a risk factor for falls, current hospital policies and practices often do not include a vision assessment at patient admission or in the hospital’s incident reporting system when a fall occurs. Our purpose was to document the prevalence of vision loss in hospital general medicine units to increase awareness of poor vision as a potential risk factor for falls that occur within the hospital, and inform future preventative practice. Methods: This cross-sectional study took place in medicine units of an acute care hospital. Participants were adult in-patients. Visual acuity (VA), contrast sensitivity and stereoacuity were measured, and patients were screened for field loss, extinction and neglect. Results: 115 participants took part (average age 67 ± 17, 48% female). Overall, 89% had a visual impairment defined as being outside the age-norms for one or more vision measure, 62% had low vision, and 36% had vision loss equivalent to legal blindness [VA equal to or poorer than 1.0 logMAR (6/60, 20/200) or ≥10x below age-norms]. There was a considerable discrepancy between the prevalence of low vision and the percentage of patients who reported an ocular diagnosis that would result in visual loss (30%). Ten patients fell during the study period, and of these 100% had visual impairment, 90% had low vision and 60% had vision loss equivalent to legal blindness, which compares to 58%, 22% and 9% for non-fallers. Similar high prevalences were found in those whose reason for admission to the hospital was a fall (92%, 63% and 33% respectively). Conclusions: Vision loss has a high prevalence among patients in hospital medicine units, and is higher still among those who fall. Since vision loss may be a contributing factor to falls that occur in hospitals, implementing an assessment of vision at hospital admission would be useful to alert staff to those patients who are at risk for falls due to poor vision, so that preventative measures can be applied. © 2017 The Authors Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics and 2017 The College of Optometrists.