Falls are a common safety incident in people with stroke. Studies report that between 14% and 65% of people with stroke fall at least once during their hospital admission. Risk factors for falls in people with stroke have been reported to include neglect, balance and dependence for activities of daily living. Communication disability has been identified as a risk factor for patient safety incidents in hospital that has not been closely examined as a potential risk factor for falls in people with stroke. AIM: To determine the association between communication disability secondary to stroke and falls in people with stroke in hospital.
METHODS & PROCEDURES: Systematic searches of five electronic databases were conducted in June 2019 using the key concepts of 'falls' and 'stroke' (PROSPERO CRD 42019137199). Included studies provided comparative data of falls in patients with stroke with and without communication disability. The methodological quality of the studies was examined using the Quality Assessment Tool for Studies with Diverse Designs (QATSDD). Both a narrative synthesis and a meta-analysis were completed.
MAIN CONTRIBUTION: A total of 15 studies met the criteria for inclusion and 11 were included in a meta-analysis. Three studies found people with communication disability had an increased rate of falls in hospital. However, a meta-analysis showed no significant association between a non-specific classification of communication disability and an increased risk of falls. There was some indication from individual studies that higher risk of falls may be associated with severe communication disability, but there were insufficient data reported on the severity of the communication disability to draw robust conclusions.
CONCLUSION & IMPLICATIONS: The results of this systematic review suggest that a generic classification of communication disability following stroke is not a risk factor for falls. However, further research that is inclusive of this population and considers severity of communication disability more specifically is required. What this paper adds What is already known on the subject The association between communication disability following stroke and falls in hospital is unclear. The literature reports mixed results regarding the impact of a communication disability following stroke on falls risk or rates of falls during hospital admission. What this paper adds to existing knowledge This review is the first to bring together this diverse literature to examine the association between communication disability following stroke and falls in hospital. The results suggest that a generic classification of communication disability following stroke is not a risk factor for falls. What are the potential or actual clinical implications of this work? There is a possibility that moderate to severe communication disability may be related to falls in patients in hospital. Further research is indicated to be more inclusive of people with communication disability, including those with severe communication disability.