The alcohol-intoxicated trauma patient: impact on imaging and radiation exposure
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of alcohol intoxication in trauma patients in regard to its impact on application of computed tomography (CT) and associated radiation exposure.
We conducted a retrospective study from a continuous patient cohort. Inclusion criteria: admission to the emergency room of an urban Level 1 trauma center with trauma team activation during a 12-month period (Jan 1st–Dec 31st 2012). Patients with incomplete data, age ≤ 12 years and with neurological diseases were excluded. Demographics, mechanisms, severity and patterns of injury (Abbreviated Injury Scale, Injury Severity Score, Glasgow Coma Scale), blood alcohol concentration (BAC, in permille, ‰), imaging studies (head/whole body CT), radiation exposure, and hospital length of stay, surgical procedures and mortality were evaluated with SPSS statistics (Version 25, IBM Inc., Armonk, New York).
A positive BAC (mean 1.80 ± 0.767) was reported in 19.2% (n = 41/214) of the cohort. Alcohol intoxication was associated with higher utilization of head CT (65.9 vs. 46.8%, p = 0.017) and radiation exposure (231.75 vs. 151.25 mAS, p = 0.045; dose-length product, 583.03 vs. 391.04, p = 0.006). In general, the presence of alcohol was associated with over-triage (p = 0.001), despite minor injury severity (ISS < 9) and a comparable rate of head injuries (p = 0.275). Head injury (AIS ≥ 3) and positive BAC (OR 2.34, 95% CI 1.096–5.001) were identified as strongest independent predictors for head CT.
Alcohol intoxication is a common finding in trauma patients, and the rate of moderate and serious head injuries seems to be comparable to a more severely injured control group. Furthermore, head CT utilization in intoxicated patients is associated with significant radiation exposure, despite poor image quality, due to motion artifacts (27%). Future strategies are required to exclude head injuries safely, while reducing the rate of head CT and associated radiation exposure in intoxicated patients.
KeywordsAlcohol intoxication Trauma patient Head CT Radiation Mortality
Abbreviated Injury Scale
Blood alcohol concentration/content
Cranial computed tomography
Dose length product
Glasgow Coma Score
Intensive care unit
Injury severity score
Length of stay
Motor vehicle accident
New injury severity score
Systolic blood pressure
Traumatic brain injury
Whole body computed tomography
This paper has been presented at the 16th European Congress of Trauma and Emergency Surgery in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and was nominated for the Best Oral Paper Presentation.
No financial support was received for this study.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
Christian David Weber, Jana Kristina Schmitz, Christina Garving, Klemens Horst, Hans-Christoph Pape, Frank Hildebrand and Philipp Kobbe have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
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