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Emerg Radiol. 2011 Oct;18(5):381-4. doi: 10.1007/s10140-011-0966-3. Epub 2011 Jun 8.

Yield of head CT in the alcohol-intoxicated patient in the emergency department.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center, 1000 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10019, USA.


We aimed to determine the yield of positive head computed tomography (CT) findings among suspected alcohol-intoxicated patients presenting to the emergency department (ED). Our secondary aim was to determine if elderly intoxicated patients were more likely to have an intracranial injury. We identified patients suspected of alcohol intoxication who underwent CT scanning in the ED over a 4-year period. Pre-determined data elements including demographics, diagnosis, and disposition were extracted using a pre-formatted data sheet by blinded abstractors. "Positive" CT was defined as evidence of any type of intracranial hemorrhage. A total of 2,671 subjects with suspected alcohol intoxication and a head CT were identified. Fifty out of the 2,671 (1.9%) had a positive CT. Among CT scans of elderly (≥60 years of age) subjects, 15/555 (2.7%, 95% CI = 1.4-4.1%) were positive compared with 35/2,116 (1.7%, 95% CI = 1.1-2.2%) among those <60 years of age (p = 0.11). The yield of positive head CT among alcohol-intoxicated patients was low, at 1.9%. An age cutoff of 60 years in this population did not predict a significantly higher positive rate.

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