BACKGROUND Falls are common and linked to morbidity. Our objectives were to characterize postoperative falls, and determine whether preoperative falls independently predicted postoperative falls (primary outcome), functional dependence, quality of life, complications, and readmission. METHODS This prospective cohort study included 7982 unselected patients undergoing elective surgery. Data were collected from the medical record, a baseline survey, and follow-up surveys approximately 30days and one year after surgery. RESULTS Fall rates (per 100 person-years) peaked at 175 (hospitalization), declined to 140 (30-day survey), and then to 97 (one-year survey). After controlling for confounders, a history of one, two, and ≥three preoperative falls predicted postoperative falls at 30days (adjusted odds ratios [aOR] 2.3, 3.6, 5.5) and one year (aOR 2.3, 3.4, 6.9). One, two, and ≥three falls predicted functional decline at 30days (aOR 1.2, 2.4, 2.4) and one year (aOR 1.3, 1.5, 3.2), along with in-hospital complications (aOR 1.2, 1.3, 2.0). Fall history predicted adverse outcomes better than commonly-used metrics, but did not predict quality of life deterioration or readmission. CONCLUSIONS Falls are common after surgery, and preoperative falls herald postoperative falls and other adverse outcomes. A history of preoperative falls should be routinely ascertained.