Page last updated: Thursday, November 26, 2009
Two studies suggest alcohol may improve outcome for trauma patients
Two recent studies suggest that trauma patients who were had consumed alcohol before their injuries were more likely to survive than trauma patients who suffered similar injuries but were sober at the time, according to a study by researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor- UCLA Medical Center.

The researchers surveyed 7,985 trauma patients of similar age and with similar injuries to determine if the consumption of alcohol prior to injury affected outcome. The study found 7% of the sober patients died compared to just 1% of the patients who had been drinking.

“This study is not encouraging the use of alcohol,” said Christian de Virgilio, MD, LA BioMed’s principal investigator for the study. “It is seeking to further explore earlier studies that had found alcohol may improve the body’s response to severe injuries. If alcohol is proven to improve the body’s response to traumatic injury, it could lead to treatments that help patients survive and recover more quickly.”

Alcohol consumption is a leading cause of accident and injury, with a previous study finding it contributes to about one-third of all trauma-related deaths. Previous studies found trauma patients who had abused alcohol for a long period of time had lower survival rates. But recent studies also found alcohol consumption may protect against death by changing the chemical response to injury.

“This study adds further support to the possibility that alcohol could be altering the body’s response to injury in a way that helps ensure survival,” said Dr. de Virgilio. “Given these findings, more research is needed to determine if there is some role for alcohol in the management of trauma patients.

Source: Elevated Blood Alcohol Level May Be Protective of Trauma Patient Mortality. American Surgeon, October, 2009

In the second study, patients from the National Trauma Data Bank (2000-2005) with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury and alcohol levels measured on admission was questioned.

Demographics and outcomes were compared between patients with traumatic brain injuries with and without alcohol in their blood.

Results showed that a total of 38 019 patients with severe traumatic brain injuries were evaluated. 38% tested positive for ethanol.

Ethanol-positive patients were younger, had a lower Injury Severity Score, and a lower Glasgow Coma Scale score compared with their counterparts who hadn’t consumed alcohol. After logistic regression analysis, alohol consumption was associated with reduced mortality (adjusted odds ratio, 0.88; 95% confidence interval, 0.80-0.96; P = .005) and higher complications (adjusted odds ratio, 1.24; 95% confidence interval, 1.15-1.33; P < .001).

The authors conclude that alcohol consumption is independently associated with decreased mortality in patients with moderate to severe head injuries. Additional research is warranted to investigate the potential therapeutic implications of this


Source: Positive Serum Ethanol Level and Mortality in Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury Ali Salim, Mdet al.Arch Surg. 2009;144(9):865-871.

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