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Alcohol involvement in burn, submersion, spinal cord, and brain injuries

David T. Levy, Sue Mallonee, Ted R. Miller, Gordon S. Smith, Rebecca S. Spicer, Eduardo O. Romano, Deborah A. Fisher

Med Sci Monit 2004; 10(1): CR17-24

ID: 11568

Background:Alcohol is involved in many injuries, but estimates of this involvement vary considerably. Most information pertains to deaths although most injuries are nonfatal.Material/Methods: The portion of fatal and nonfatal injuries involving alcohol was determined from a comprehensive Oklahoma surveillance system that tracks persons killed or hospitalized due to burns, submersions, spinal cord injuries (SCIs), and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Logistic regression was used to determine factors that explain the percentage of alcohol involvement in fatal versus nonfatal cases.Results: The victim was alcohol involved in 17% of fire burns, 4% of scald burns, 24% of submersions, 34% of SCIs, and 41% of TBIs where involvement was known. Large differences existed in total alcohol involvement between age and gender groups and between fatal and nonfatal cases of fire burns (31% vs.11%) and submersions (33% vs. 6%). Large differences also existed in victim alcohol involvement between fatal and nonfatal cases of intentional SCIs (0% vs. 48%) and TBIs (38% vs. 70%). Those who imbibed during the day were not at excess risk of scald injury, but they were twice as likely to suffer a serious fire burn, 3 times as likely to suffer a spinal cord injury, 3.5 times as likely to suffer a submersion injury, and 2 to 4 times as likely to suffer a TBI. These excess risks persisted for all age groups between 15 and 64, with the excess risk especially high for underage drinkers aged 15 to 20. In contrast, people aged 65 and older did not appear to be at excess risk on days that they imbibed.Conclusions: A large percentage of fatal and nonfatal injuries as classified by diagnosis group involve alcohol. People who had been drinking were substantially more likely to suffer serious nonfatal and fatal injuries other than scald burns.

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