Serum alcohol levels correlate with injury severity and resource utilization

  • A.I. Elshiere
  • M.A. Noorbhai
  • T.E. Madiba


Background: Alcohol consumption leads to violence and poor judgement. The  resultant trauma is the leading cause of emergency department visits. In South Africa, alcohol-related emergency visits can be as high as 57%. The purpose of this prospective  study was to establish the prevalence of positive blood alcohol and  Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) at a tertiary trauma unit in Durban, and to  correlate it with injury severity, length of hospital stay and resource utilization.
Methods: A total of 100 patients from King Edward trauma unit were analysed  prospectively during the period December 2014 to February 2015. The BAC was correlated with Injury Severity Score (ISS), mechanism of injury, length of stay, and in-hospital mortality. Pearson chi-square test, Wilcoxon rank sum and student t-test were used for statistical analysis.
Results: Eighty-eight patients were male. The mean age was 30 ± 9.3 years.  Forty-seven patients tested positive for blood  alcohol, of whom 81% were above the legal limit for professional drivers. The mean BAC among the alcohol positive patients was 0.146 g/dL. Positive blood alcohol was associated with significantly higher ISS scores (p = 0.0004). Injuries due to interpersonal violence were seen in 83 patients of whom 42 (51%) had positive blood alcohol. Hospital stay for alcohol positive patients was significantly longer compared to alcohol negative patients (p < 0.001).
Conclusion: The prevalence of blood alcohol in the trauma population is high. Positive blood alcohol is associated with high ISS and longer hospital stays.

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eISSN: 2078-5151
print ISSN: 0038-2361