The influence of alcohol on the outcome of trauma patients: a matched-pair analysis of the TraumaRegister DGU®

  • Nils WagnerEmail author
  • Borna Relja
  • Thomas Lustenberger
  • Max Leiblein
  • Sebastian Wutzler
  • Rolf Lefering
  • Ingo Marzi
  • the TraumaRegister DGU3
Original Article


Background and purpose

In the diagnosis and treatment of trauma patients, numerous individual and trauma-related factors must be considered, all of which may influence the outcome. Although alcohol exposure is a major risk factor for an accident, its influence on the outcome is unclear. This matched-pair analysis investigates the hypothesis that alcohol has no negative impact on the outcome of trauma patients.

Materials and methods

In a retrospective matched-pair analysis of the multi-centre database of the TraumaRegister DGU® patients with a maximum Abbreviated Injury Scale (MAIS) of 3 or greater from the years 2015 and 2016 with an alcohol level ≥ 0.5‰ were compared to patients with a measured alcohol level of 0.0‰. The patients were matched according to age, gender, AIS body regions (head, thorax, abdomen, pelvis/extremities) and survival presumption (Revised Injury Severity Classification Score (RISC) II the TraumaRegister ervals).


After matching, a total of 834 patients were enrolled, with 417 patients in group with positive blood alcohol levels (BAL +) with a median alcohol level of 1.82‰ and 417 patients in the negative-alcohol group (BAL −). As a mechanism of injury, the BAL + group showed more often penetrating injuries, pedestrian accidents and low energy falls compared to car and motorcycle accidents in the BAL − group. BAL + patients were significantly less sedated (BAL −: 66.7% vs. BAL + : 56.2%, p = 0.002), less frequently transported by rescue helicopter, were more frequently hypotensive (BAL −: 42 patients (10.3%) vs. BAL + : 61 patients (15.2%), p = 0.045, Table 2) and exhibited lower base excess levels associated with an acidotic metabolic status compared to sober patients (acidosis: BAL −: 24 patients (6.1%) vs. BAL + : 61 patients (17.2%), p < 0.001). There was no difference regarding in-hospital complications, length of stay or mortality rate.

Conclusions and implications

Our data demonstrate that alcohol exposure in trauma patients has no impact on complication or mortality rates. On the other hand, there are initially clear differences in the mechanism of injury, sedation, mode of transport and the acid–base balance.


Alcohol Outcome Trauma patients Base excess Acidose 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Prof. Lefering is a member and advisor of Emergency Medicine, Intensive Care and Trauma Management (Sektion NIS) of the German Trauma Society (DGU). His institute receives financial support from the AUC—Academy of Trauma Surgery GmbH, the operator of the TR-DGU, as part of a cooperation agreement which also includes the statistical support of scientific publications. The other authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Trauma, Hand and Reconstructive SurgeryUniversity Hospital Frankfurt, Goethe-UniversityFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.Department of Trauma, Hand and Orthopaedic SurgeryHelios Dr. Horst Schmidt HospitalWiesbadenGermany
  3. 3.IFOM, Institute for Research in Operative Medicine, Faculty of HealthUniversity Witten/HerdeckeCologneGermany

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