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Home > Is the contribution of alcohol to fatal traumatic brain injuries being underestimated in the acute hospital setting?

O'Toole, O and Mahon, C and Lynch, K and Brett, FM (2009) Is the contribution of alcohol to fatal traumatic brain injuries being underestimated in the acute hospital setting? Irish Medical Journal, 102, (7), pp. 207-210.

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Alcohol consumption in Ireland has nearly doubled during the period 1989-2001. To evaluate the relationship of alcohol to fatal head injuries in the acute hospital setting we created a data base of all fatal traumatic brain injuries in the Department of Neuropathology at Beaumont Hospital over a ten year period (1997-2006 inclusive). 498 cases were identified (351 males: 147 females). Fatalities were highest in males aged 19-25 years (N=101) and 51-70 years (N=109). Falls (N=210) and road traffic accidents (N=183) were the commonest modes of presentation. 36/210(17%) falls had positive blood alcohol testing, 9/210(4.3%) had documentation of alcohol in notes but no testing, 35/210 (16.7%) tested negative for alcohol and 130/210(61.9%) were not tested. The RTA group (N=183) comprised drivers (n=79), passengers (n=47) and pedestrians (n=57). 65/79 (82.2%) of drivers were males aged 19-25 years. Blood alcohol was only available in 27/79 (34.1%) drivers and was positive in 13/27(48.1%). 14/75 (18.7%) pedestrians were tested for alcohol, 4/14(28.6%) were positive. Overall 142/183 (77.6%) of the RTA group were not tested. The contribution of alcohol to fatal traumatic brain injuries is probably being underestimated due to omission of blood alcohol concentration testing on admission to hospital. Absence of national guidelines on blood alcohol testing in the emergency department compounds the problem.

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