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J Trauma. 1992 Nov;33(5):709-13.

The effects of alcohol intoxication on the initial treatment and hospital course of patients with acute brain injury.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle.


The effect of alcohol intoxication at the time of injury on hospital outcome was evaluated in 520 adult patients diagnosed with brain injury who were admitted to the emergency department of Harborview Medical Center. Data were collected for each subject's status from field intervention through hospitalization. Serum alcohol levels were measured from blood drawn in the emergency room, and the subjects were stratified into two groups: intoxicated (> or = 100 mg/dL, n = 191) and nonintoxicated (< 100 mg/dL, n = 329). Compared with subjects who were not intoxicated, intoxicated patients were more likely to be intubated in the field or emergency department (relative risk [RR] = 1.3, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.1-1.5), require placement of an intracranial pressure bolt (RR = 1.4, 95% CI = 1.1-1.8), develop respiratory distress requiring ventilatory assistance during hospitalization (RR = 1.8, 95% CI = 1.0-3.3), or develop pneumonia (RR = 1.4, 95% CI = 0.9-2.2). The similarities in the clinical presentation of patients with acute brain injury and those who are intoxicated appear to influence prehospital care and also suggest that a more objective assessment of cerebral injury than provided by clinical diagnostic measures alone is required, thus accounting for the elevated likelihood of intracranial pressure monitoring in intoxicated trauma patients.

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