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accidental falls, fall rates, fall-related injuries, heart failure, prevalence, risk factors, systematic review



  1. Lee, Kayoung MSN, RN, ANP-BC
  2. Pressler, Susan J. PhD, RN, FAAN, FAHA
  3. Titler, Marita PhD, RN, FAAN


Background: Many heart failure patients show fall-related signs/symptoms including postural hypotension, cerebellar injury, and cognitive impairments. Falls contribute to injuries, increased healthcare use, and death, but falls have been understudied in this population.


Objective: The purpose of this review is to identify fall rates, fall injuries, and risk factors for falls in heart failure patients.


Methods: A systematic literature review was conducted using MEDLINE, CINAHL, PubMed, PsycINFO, and Cochrane Library to identify publications from August 1973 to June 2013. Keywords were accidental falls, heart failure, fall rates, fall injuries, and fall risk. Inclusion criteria were publications that were primary data based, included heart failure sample, had falls/fall risk as study variables, and were written in English language. Exclusion criteria were quality improvement/evaluation, case reports/studies, news, opinions, narrative reviews, meeting reports, reflections, and letters to editors. Data were abstracted using a standardized data collection form.


Results: Four publications met the inclusion criteria. In the first study, fall rate was 43%, which is higher than the fall rates among community-dwelling older adults. Fall-related injuries were not examined in any of studies. Benzodiazepines and digoxin were identified as medications that increased risk of falls in 1 case-control study. Loop diuretics were not significantly associated with falls in 1 cohort study. In the fourth study, patients who had poor gait and balance were at greater risk of falling.


Conclusions: Future studies are needed to determine factors associated with falls, characterize injuries resulting from falls, and most importantly design testable interventions to prevent falls in heart failure patients.