Close up image of a caretaker helping older woman walk

More accurate coding andreporting could be the reason behind a recent spike of fall-related deaths inthe elderly, new research finds.

Ratesof fatal falls jumped 42% between 2000 and 2006, according to Johns Hopkinsresearchers, who said they were surprised to see such a spike.

Theirsuspicion is that, prior to implementation of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) in 1999,deaths following a minor fall often were classified by the illness orcomplication that resulted from the injury, such as pneumonia. The jump infall-related deaths after ICD-10’s debut was immediate, researchers said, andis likely a better reflection of what is happening in the senior population.

“In fact, it’slikely that for some time we’ve been under-reporting just how many olderAmericans die as a result of a fall, a hypothesis supported by internationalcomparisons,” Susan P. Baker, MPH, of the Johns Hopkins Center for InjuryResearch and Policy, said.

The study was published in the May-June issue of PublicHealth Reports.