Treatment course and outcomes following drug and alcohol-related traumatic injuries

Cowperthwaite, Matthew C.; Burnett, Mark G.
January 2011
Journal of Trauma Management & Outcomes;2011, Vol. 5 Issue 1, p1
Academic Journal
Background: Alcohol and drug use is known to be a major factor affecting the incidence of traumatic injury. However, the ways in which immediate pre-injury substance use affects patients' clinical care and outcomes remains unclear. The goal of the present study is to determine the associations between pre-injury use of alcohol or drugs and patient injury severity, hospital course, and clinical outcome. Materials and methods: This study used more than 200,000 records from the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB), which is the largest trauma registry in the United States. Incidents in the NTDB were placed into one of four classes: alcohol related, drug related, alcohol-and-drug related, and substance negative. Logistic regression models were used to determine comorbid conditions or treatment complications that were significantly associated with pre-injury substance use. Hospital charges were associated with the presence or absence of drugs and alcohol, and patient outcomes were assessed using discharge disposition as delimited by the NTDB. Results: The rates of complications arising during treatment were 8.3, 10.9, 9.9 and 8.6 per one hundred incidents in the alcohol related, drug related, alcohol-and-drug related, and substance-negative classes, respectively. Regression models suggested that pre-injury alcohol use is associated with a 15% higher risk of infection, whereas pre-injury drug use is associated with a 30% higher risk of infection. Pre-injury substance use did not appear to significantly impact clinical outcomes following treatment for traumatic injury, however. Conclusion: This study suggests that pre-injury drug use is associated with a significantly higher complication rate. In particular, infection during hospitalization is a significant risk for both alcohol and drug related trauma visits, and drug-related trauma incidents are associated with increased risk for additional circulatory complications. Although drug and alcohol related trauma incidents are not associated with appreciably worse clinical outcomes, patients experiencing such complications are associated with significantly greater length of stay and higher hospitalization costs. Therefore significant benefits to trauma patients could be gained with enhanced surveillance for pre-injury substance use upon admission to the ED, and closer monitoring for infection or circulatory complications during their period of hospitalization.


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