Randomized Controlled Trial of Screening, Risk Modification, and Physical Therapy to Prevent Falls Among the Elderly Recently Discharged From the Emergency Department to the Community: The Steps to Avoid Falls in the Elderly Study.



To evaluate the effectiveness of a multifactorial, tailored program of physical therapy to reduce the occurrence of falls among a heterogeneous group of high-risk elderly Singaporeans recently discharged from the emergency department (ED).


Randomized controlled trial.




Adults (N=354) aged ≥65 years who were seen in the ED for a fall or fall-related injuries and discharged home.


The intervention primarily consisted of a tailored program of physical therapy focused on progressive training in strength, balance, and gait for a period of 3 months. Participants in the intervention group also received screening and follow-up for vision, polypharmacy, and environmental hazards. Participants in the control group received usual care prescribed by a physician and educational materials on falls prevention.

Main outcome measures

The primary outcome measure was experiencing at least 1 fall during the 9-month study period (a 3-mo active intervention phase and a 6-mo maintenance phase). Secondary outcome measures were the occurrence of at least 1 injurious fall during the study period and a change in the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) score. Participants were assessed both after 3 and 9 months.


During the 9-month study period, 37.8% of the control group and 30.5% of the intervention group fell at least once, which was not statistically significantly different (odds ratio [OR]=.72; 95% confidence interval [CI], .46-1.12; P=.146). The intervention group had statistically significantly fewer individuals with injurious falls (OR=.56; 95% CI, .32-.98; P=.041) and less deterioration in physical performance, reflected by a mean difference of 0.6 in SPPB scores (P=.029). Multivariate analyses indicated a strong interaction effect between the intervention and the presence of 2 or more major comorbidities; after accounting for this effect, the intervention program reduced the number of people experiencing at least 1 fall (OR=.34; 95% CI, .17-.67; P=.002).


We observed that in this heterogeneous population, the proportion of participants experiencing at least 1 fall during the study period was not statistically significantly lower in the intervention group compared with the control group. Secondary analyses strongly suggest that individuals with 2 or more major comorbidities do not benefit from a tailored physical therapy program; however, individuals with less comorbidity may substantially benefit.


Journal article





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Matchar, David B, Pamela W Duncan, Christopher T Lien, Marcus Eng Hock Ong, Mina Lee, Fei Gao, Rita Sim, Kirsten Eom, et al. (2017). Randomized Controlled Trial of Screening, Risk Modification, and Physical Therapy to Prevent Falls Among the Elderly Recently Discharged From the Emergency Department to the Community: The Steps to Avoid Falls in the Elderly Study. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 98(6). pp. 1086–1096. 10.1016/j.apmr.2017.01.014 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/22808.

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David Bruce Matchar

Professor of Medicine

My research relates to clinical practice improvement - from the development of clinical policies to their implementation in real world clinical settings. Most recently my major content focus has been cerebrovascular disease. Other major clinical areas in which I work include the range of disabling neurological conditions, cardiovascular disease, and cancer prevention.
Notable features of my work are: (1) reliance on analytic strategies such as meta-analysis, simulation, decision analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis; (2) a balancing of methodological rigor the needs of medical professionals; and (3) dependence on interdisciplinary groups of experts.
This approach is best illustrated by the Stroke Prevention Patient Outcome Research Team (PORT), for which I served as principal investigator. Funded by the AHCPR, the PORT involved 35 investigators at 13 institutions. The Stroke PORT has been highly productive and has led to a stroke prevention project funded as a public/private partnership by the AHCPR and DuPont Pharma, the Managing Anticoagulation Services Trial (MAST). MAST is a practice improvement trial in 6 managed care organizations, focussing on optimizing anticoagulation for individuals with atrial fibrillation.
I serve as consultant in the general area of analytic strategies for clinical policy development, as well as for specific projects related to stroke (e.g., acute stroke treatment, management of atrial fibrillation, and use of carotid endarterectomy.) I have worked with AHCPR (now AHRQ), ACP, AHA, AAN, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NSA, WHO, and several pharmaceutical companies.
Key Words: clinical policy, disease management, stroke, decision analysis, clinical guidelines

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