Recognition and treatment of ethanol abuse in trauma patients

B. L. Erstad, D. G. Grier, M. E. Scott, M. J. Esser, P. Joshi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To evaluate physicians' recognition of possible ethanol-related complications in trauma patients, and to compare benzodiazepine requirements in patients with positive and negative blood-ethanol concentrations. Design: Retrospective investigation. Setting: University medical center (level I trauma center). Patients: One hundred thirty-one trauma patients more than 18 years of age who were admitted for at least 24 hours. Outcome measures: (1) Physicians' recognition of ethanol (EtOH) as a potential factor complicating patient recovery in trauma patients admitted with positive blood-EtOH concentrations. (2) The amount of benzodiazepines administered to trauma patients with positive EtOH-blood concentrations compared to trauma patients with no detectable EtOH in their blood. Results: The presence of EtOH in the blood or the potential for EtOH withdrawal was mentioned in the progress notes of approximately one fourth of the patients with positive blood-EtOH concentrations. Thiamine was administered in 8.2% of patients with EtOH-related injuries. Benzodiazepine requirements were significantly higher in patients with positive versus negative blood-EtOH concentrations. Conclusions: Prompt recognition and charting of suspected ethanol abuse is recommended, in conjunction with prompt administration of thiamine. It should be anticipated that patients with positive blood-ethanol concentrations will require higher doses of benzodiazepines compared to trauma patients without ethanol-related injuries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-336
Number of pages7
JournalHeart and Lung: Journal of Acute and Critical Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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