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Ann Emerg Med. 2018 Mar;71(3):279-288. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2017.07.021. Epub 2017 Aug 24.

Unsuspected Critical Illness Among Emergency Department Patients Presenting for Acute Alcohol Intoxication.

Author information

1
Department of Emergency Medicine, Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN. Electronic address: lauren.klein@hcmed.org.
2
Department of Emergency Medicine, Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN.

Abstract

STUDY OBJECTIVE:

Emergency department (ED) visits for acute alcohol intoxication are common, but this population is at risk for decompensation and occult critical illness. The purpose of this study is to describe the incidence and predictors of unsuspected critical illness among patients with acute alcohol intoxication.

METHODS:

This was a retrospective observational study of ED patients from 2011 to 2016 with acute alcohol intoxication. The study cohort included patients presenting for alcohol intoxication, whose initial assessment was uncomplicated alcohol intoxication without any other active acute medical or traumatic complaints. The primary outcome was defined as the unanticipated subsequent use of critical care resources during the encounter or admission to an ICU. We investigated potential predictors for this outcome with generalized estimating equations.

RESULTS:

We identified 31,364 eligible patient encounters (median age 38 years; 71% men; median breath alcohol concentration 234 mg/dL); 325 encounters (1%) used critical care resources. The most common diagnoses per 1,000 ED encounters were acute hypoxic respiratory failure (3.1), alcohol withdrawal (1.7), sepsis or infection (1.1), and intracranial hemorrhage (1.0). Three patients sustained a cardiac arrest. Presence of the following had an increased adjusted odds ratio (aOR) of developing critical illness: hypoglycemia (aOR 9.2), hypotension (aOR 3.8), tachycardia (aOR 1.8), fever (aOR 7.6), hypoxia (aOR 3.8), hypothermia (aOR 4.2), and parenteral sedation (aOR 2.4). The initial blood alcohol concentration aOR was 1.0.

CONCLUSION:

Critical care resources were used for 1% of ED patients with alcohol intoxication who were initially assessed by physicians to have low risk. Abnormal vital signs, hypoglycemia, and chemical sedation were associated with increased odds of critical illness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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