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Ann Emerg Med. 2007 Jan;49(1):45-51. Epub 2006 Jun 14.

Effect of intoxication among blunt trauma patients selected for head computed tomography scanning.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, MA 02118, USA.



We examine the prevalence and types of intracranial injuries sustained by intoxicated blunt trauma patients.


The study was conducted as a secondary analysis of National Emergency X-Radiography Utilization Study II head injury database. Treating physicians prospectively assessed presenting signs and symptoms on all blunt trauma patients who underwent head computed tomography (CT). Intoxication status was determined by the examining physician and was based on a history of intoxication, positive toxicologic screen result, or physical evidence suggesting intoxication. Intracranial injury diagnoses were based on final CT interpretations provided by attending radiologists.


Intracranial injury was detected in 1,193 of the 13,728 enrolled patients (8.7%), and intoxication was evident in 3,356 (24.4%) patients. Physicians were unable to assess intoxication status in 620 individuals. Intracranial injury was present in 231 intoxicated patients (231/3,356; 6.9%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 6.0 to 7.8), 789 of 9,752 nonintoxicated patients (8.1%; 95% CI 7.6% to 8.6%), and 173 of the 620 patients who could not be assessed for intoxication (prevalence 27.9%; 95% CI 24.4% to 31.6%). Intracranial injury was identified in only 5 of 299 intoxicated patients (1.7%) who had normal neurological examination results and no evidence of trauma to the calvarium.


The prevalence of intracranial injury among intoxicated blunt trauma patients who are selected for head CT is lower than among nonintoxicated patients selected for imaging, which likely represents heightened concern in the presence of intoxication, even without other findings suggestive of intracranial injury. This conclusion is supported by the fact that few intoxicated patients with normal neurologic findings and no evidence of trauma to the calvarium had positive findings on CT imaging.

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