Open Access

Alcohol consumption, blood alcohol concentration level and guideline compliance in hospital referred patients with minimal, mild and moderate head injuries

  • Marianne Efskind Harr1, 2Email author,
  • Ben Heskestad1, 2, 3,
  • Tor Ingebrigtsen4,
  • Bertil Romner4, 5,
  • Pål Rønning1 and
  • Eirik Helseth1, 2
Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine201119:25

https://doi.org/10.1186/1757-7241-19-25

Received: 15 February 2011

Accepted: 17 April 2011

Published: 17 April 2011

Abstract

Background

In 2000 the Scandinavian Neurotrauma Committee published guidelines for safe and cost-effective management of minimal, mild and moderate head injured patients.

The aims of this study were to investigate to what extent the head injury population is under the influence of alcohol, and to evaluate whether the physicians' compliance to the guidelines is affected when patients are influenced by alcohol.

Methods

This study included adult patients (≥15 years) referred to a Norwegian University Hospital with minimal, mild and moderate head injuries classified according to the Head Injury Severity Scale (HISS). Information on alcohol consumption was recorded, and in most of these patients blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was measured. Compliance with the abovementioned guidelines was registered.

Results

The study includes 860 patients. 35.8% of the patients had consumed alcohol, and 92.1% of these patients had a BAC ≥ 1.00‰. Young age, male gender, trauma occurring during the weekends, mild and moderate head injuries were independent factors significantly associated with being under the influence of alcohol. Guideline compliance was 60.5%, and over-triage was the main violation. The guideline compliance showed no significant correlation to alcohol consumption or to BAC-level.

Conclusions

This study confirms that alcohol consumption is common among patients with head injuries. The physicians' guideline compliance was not affected by the patients' alcohol consumption, and alcohol influence could therefore not explain the low guideline compliance.

Background

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the most common cause of death and permanent disability in trauma patients [13]. The incidence of TBI varies between different countries and studies [4]. The incidence for hospital referred and fatal TBIs in Europe and the United States is reported to be in the range of 83.3 - 403/100 000 and 15-18/100 000, respectively [3, 58]. Various studies have shown that 16 - 51% of the patients admitted for TBIs are under the influence of alcohol [912].

In year 2000 the Scandinavian Neurotrauma Committee (SNC) published guidelines with regards to safe and cost-effective management of minimal, mild and moderate head injured patients classified according to the Head Injury Severity Scale (HISS) [13, 14]. Compliance to these guidelines has been far from complete [15, 16]. Over-triage with either unnecessary hospital admission and/or CT-scanning was the main violation resulting in a cost increase for the health care provider. A possible explanation for the low guideline compliance with a substantial over-triage could be the frequent alcohol influence in this patient population. However, the relationship between alcohol consumption and compliance to these guidelines has so far not been studied.

The purpose of this study has been to investigate to what extent patients with minimal, mild and moderate head injuries are under influence of alcohol, and if alcohol consumption affects how these patients are managed according to the SNC guidelines.

Methods

This study is based on data collected from Stavanger University Hospital, a hospital located in the southwestern part of Norway with a catchment population of 320 000. A search was made in the hospital's electronic medical charts for patients registered with ICD-10 codes involving head injuries referred to the hospital from January through June in the years 2005, 2007 and 2009. Adult patients (≥ 15 years) with minimal, mild or moderate head injuries according to the Head Injury Severity Scale, HISS, were included in the study [14]. The medical record for each patient was retrospectively reviewed and patient information registered in a database.

The recorded patient information included:
  1. a.

    date of birth, trauma date and gender

     
  2. b.

    Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score on admission [17]

     
  3. c.

    amnesia (yes or no)

     
  4. d.

    HISS score (minimal, mild, moderate) [14]

     
  5. e.

    hospitalization for overnight observation (yes or no)

     
  6. f.

    risk factors present according to SNC guidelines (yes or no) [13]

     
  7. g.

    head CT performed (yes or no)

     
  8. h.

    related pathological findings on head CT (yes or no)

     
  9. i.

    hospitalization required for reasons other than the actual head injury (yes or no)

     
  10. j.

    compliance according to SNC guidelines (yes, no - over-triage with unnecessary CT scan, no - over-triage with unnecessary admission for overnight observation, no - over-triage with both unnecessary CT scan and admission or no - under-triage with CT scan not taken and/or not admitted for overnight observation)

     
  11. k.

    weekday of admission

     
  12. l.

    alcohol consumption (yes (self-reported, patients clinically judged to be under the influence of alcohol by the admitting physician or blood alcohol concentration > 0) or no)

     
  13. m.

    in the majority of patients who were judged to be under influence of alcohol based on clinical evaluation and/or reported that they had consumed alcohol, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in promille (grams of alcohol per kilogram of blood) was measured on admission.

     

For statistical analysis variables were checked for normality graphically using quantile-quantile plots and analytically using the Shapiro-wilks test. We used a combination of robust independent t-samples tests, chi squared tests and Wilcoxon tests to check if groups where equal. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression was used after dichotomizing the dependent variables. Age, gender, HISS score, weekday of admission, alcohol consumption and BAC were included as covariates in the multivariate logistic regression models. In case of missing values we discarded the entire observation for the multivariate analyses. The resulting coefficients were exponentiated to obtain odds-ratios. Confidence intervals were calculated. A p-value less than 0.05 was considered statistically significant. R v 11.1 was used for statistical analyses [18].

Results

Patients

This study includes 860 adult patients with minimal, mild and moderate TBI, giving an estimated annual incidence of 179/100 000. The mean age was 40.9 years (range 15 - 99 years) and 66.6% were men. The mean age of men included in this study was significantly lower than the mean age of women (Mann-Whitney U test, p < 0.001). According to HISS, 12.8% (110/860) had a minimal TBI, 71.4% (614/860) had a mild TBI and 15.8% (136/860) had a moderate TBI. Table 1 shows a summary of the patient characteristics.
Table 1

Patient characteristics (n = 860)

  

Overall

N = 860

Gender

Test statistic

   

Female

Male

 
   

N = 287

N = 573

 

Age (years)

Median

35.0

45.0

32.0

F1,858 = 30.51, P < 0.0012

Age group (years)

15 - 24

292 (34.0%)

83 (28.9%)

209 (36.5%)

χ23 = 52.89, P < 0.0013

 

25 - 39

181 (21.0%)

42 (14.6%)

139 (24.3%)

 
 

40 - 59

205 (23.8%)

61 (21.3%)

144 (25.1%)

 
 

≥ 60

182 (21.2%)

101 (35.2%)

81 (14.1%)

 

HISS 1

Minimal

110 (12.8%)

54 (18.8%)

56 (9.8%)

χ22 = 16.14, P < 0.0013

 

Mild

614 (71.4%)

198 (69.0%)

416 (72.6%)

 
 

Moderate

136 (15.8%)

35 (12.2%)

101 (17.6%)

 

Alcohol consumption

Yes

308 (35.8%)

62 (21.6%)

246 (42.9%)

χ21 = 37.84, P < 0.0013

 

No

552 (64.2%)

225 (78.4%)

327 (57.1%)

 

1 HISS - Head Injury Severity Scale [14]

2 Wilcoxon test

3 Pearson test

Alcohol consumption

At time of admission, 35.8% (308/860) had consumed alcohol (Table 1). Using univariate and multivariate analysis we found that young age, male gender, trauma occurring during the weekends and mild and moderate TBIs were independent factors significantly associated with alcohol consumption (Table 2).
Table 2

Logistic regression analysis of variables possibly associated with increased probability of alcohol consumption

Variable

Univariate

Odds ratio (95% CI)

Multivariate

Odds ratio (95% CI)

Age

0.99***

(0.98,0.99)

0.98***

(0.97,0.99)

Gender

  

   Male

1

1

Female

0.46***

(0.32,0.66)

0.37***

(0.26,0.51)

HISS

  

   Minimal

1

1

Mild

4.84***

(2.47,9.51)

5.21***

(2.73,9.91)

Moderate

9.03***

(4.24,19.20)

10.13***

(5.00,20.55)

Day

  

Monday

1

1

Tuesday

0.76

(0.38,1.54)

0.80

(0.41,1.57)

Wednesday

0.72

(0.37,1.42)

0.82

(0.43,1.55)

Thursday

0.71

(0.35,1.44)

0.76

(0.39,1.50)

Friday

0.94

(0.51,1.74)

0.92

(0.60,1.95)

Saturday

2.57***

(1.47,4.49)

3.18***

(1.87,5.40)

Sunday

3.24***

(1.86,5.67)

3.85***

(2.27,6.52)

*** P<0.001, ** P<0.01, * P<0.05

Blood alcohol concentration

The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was measured in 87% (267/308) of the patients which reported that they had consumed alcohol and/or were clinically judged by the admitting physician to be under the influence of alcohol. All 267 BACs measured were above 0, with a minimum value of 0.10‰ and a maximum value of 4.70‰. Of these, 7.9% (21/267) had a BAC in the range 0.10-0.99‰, 30.3% (81/267) had BAC 1.00-1.99‰ and 61.8% (165/267) had BAC ≥ 2.00‰. The mean BAC in the patients being under influence was 2.14‰. The mean BAC was 2.04‰ for women and 2.17‰ for men, which is not significantly different (independent samples t-test, p = 0.29).

SNC guideline compliance

The overall compliance to the guidelines was 60.5% (520/860). Among the 340 patients not managed according to the guidelines, 88.2% (300/340) underwent over-triage and 11.8% (40/340) under-triage. In minimal, mild and moderate head injuries according to HISS the compliance were 45.5%, 54.9% and 97.8%, respectively. Using univariate and multivariate analysis we found that old age and moderate TBI were independent variables significantly associated with higher compliance rate (Table 3, Table 4). Neither gender nor alcohol influence nor BAC-level showed significant correlation with guideline compliance.
Table 3

Logistic regression analysis of variables possibly associated with increased probability of guideline compliance

Variable

Univariate

Odds ratio (95% CI)

Multivariate

Odds ratio (95% CI)

Alcohol consumption

  

No

1

1

Yes

0.67*

(0.49,0.93)

0.92

(0.69,1.22)

Age

1.01**

(1.00,1.02)

1.01***

(1.01,1.02)

Gender

  

Male

1

1

Female

0.84

(0.61,1.16)

0.87

(0.65,1.16)

HISS

  

Minimal

1

1

Mild

1.61*

(1.05,2.45)

1.46

(0.97,2.20)

Moderate

61.97***

(18.29,209.96)

53.20***

(15.96,177.38)

*** P<0.001, ** P<0.01, * P<0.05

Table 4

Logistic regression analysis of variables possibly associated with increased probability of guideline compliance in the 287 patients where BAC was measured

Variable

Univariate

Odds ratio (95%CI)

Multivariate

Odds ratio (95% CI)

BAC

0.93

(0.65,1.35)

1.30

(0.96,1.75)

Age

1.01

(1.00,1.03)

1.01***

(1.01,1.02)

Gender

  

Male

1

1

Female

0.84

(0.42,1.66)

0.87

(0.65,1.16)

HISS

  

Minimal

1

1

Mild

1.78

(0.42,7.54)

1.46

(0.97,2.20)

Moderate

146.04***

(12.64,1687.30)

53.20***

(15.96,177.38)

*** P<0.001, ** P<0.01, * P<0.05

Discussion

This study confirms that alcohol consumption is common among patients with head injuries, and it shows that physician's guideline compliance is not affected by patients' alcohol consumption. Furthermore, we found that young age, male gender, trauma occurring during the weekends, mild and moderate TBIs were independent factors significantly associated with alcohol consumption.

The incidence of minimal, mild and moderate head injuries referred to hospital was estimated to 179/100 000, which is comparable to other studies reporting incidence levels in the range of 83.3 - 403/100 000 [3, 58]. We report that the majority of the head injured patients were men (66.6%), and that most patients (34%) were aged 15-24. The majority of the patients, both those who had and had not consumed alcohol, were classified with a mild head injury. These findings are in line with the results from other studies of hospital referred head injuries [4, 68, 19].

We report that 35.8% of the patients had consumed alcohol at the time of admission. For traumas in general, it has been reported that 4 - 45% of injured patients are under the influence of alcohol [12, 20, 21]. With regards to traumatic brain injuries, alcohol use has been reported to be involved in 16 - 51% of these injuries [912].

Among the patients having consumed alcohol, 7.9% had a BAC lower than 1.00‰, 30.3% had a BAC between 1.00-1.90‰ and 61.8% a BAC at or greater than 2.00‰. The mean BAC was 2.14‰. Moskowitz reports that impairment in behavior, visual functions and body balance have been demonstrated at blood alcohol concentrations of 0.30-0.40‰ [22]. Increasing BAC aggravates these effects of alcohol [23]. Alcohol consumption resulting in intoxication might alter judgment, cause a more risk taking behavior, and impair motor and sensor functions, which can make people prone to head injuries.

Increasing levels of BACs can affect a person's memory [23] and cause amnesia, which could alter the classification of a head injury as defined in HISS [23, 14]. There is a lower proportion of minimal head injury among the patients that had consumed alcohol than in those who had not. In the patient group being under the influence of alcohol, mild and moderate head injuries were more common. These findings might suggest that influenced patients can get lower GCS scores, and/or more often report loss of consciousness than the non-indulgent patients, which both will alter the HISS grade. However, firm evidence for reduction of GCS in trauma patients by alcohol is lacking. Thus, attributing low GCS to alcohol intoxication in TBI patients may delay necessary diagnostic and therapeutic interventions [2426].

Guidelines are made in hope to secure safe, high quality and cost-effective patient management. Compliance to such guidelines is often low, as has been the case for the SNC-guidelines [15, 16]. We report an overall guideline compliance of 60.5%, and that the main violation was over-triage. Alcohol consumption among the patients did not change the physicians' decision making with regards to guideline compliance. We found that the compliance rate was significantly higher for patients with moderate TBI than for patients with minimal or mild TBI, as has been shown by Heskestad et al. earlier [16].

This study has limitations. The study design was retrospective. The patients included were selected by general practitioners for hospital referral. The blood alcohol concentration was not measured in all relevant patients.

Conclusions

This study confirms that alcohol consumption is common among patients with head injuries. Most of the patients who had consumed alcohol had blood alcohol concentrations at intoxication levels (BAC ≥ 1.00‰). The physician's guideline compliance was not affected by the patient's alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption cannot explain the low guideline compliance.

Declarations

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Department of Neurosurgery, Oslo University Hospital - Ullevål
(2)
Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo
(3)
Department of Neurosurgery, Stavanger University Hospital
(4)
Department of Neurosurgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, Institute for Clinical Medicine, University of Tromsø, and University Hospital of North Norway
(5)
Department of Neurosurgery, Rigshospitalet

References

  1. Thurman DJ, Guerrero J, Sniezek JE: Traumatic Bain Injury in the United States: A Public Health Perspective. J Head Trauma Rehabil. 1999, 14: 602-615. 10.1097/00001199-199912000-00009.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Ghajar J: Traumatic brain injury. Lancet. 2000, 356: 923-929. 10.1016/S0140-6736(00)02689-1.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Tagliaferri F, Compagnone C, Korsic M, Kraus J: A systemic review of brain injury epidemiology in Europe. Acta Neurochir (Wien). 2008, 148: 255-268. 10.1007/s00701-005-0651-y.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  4. Jennett B: Epidemiology of head injury. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1996, 60: 362-369. 10.1136/jnnp.60.4.362.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Andelic N, Sigurdardottir S, Brunborg C, Roe C: Incidence of hospital-treated traumatic brain injury in the Oslo population. Neuroepidemiology. 2008, 30: 120-128. 10.1159/000120025.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Ingebrigtsen T, Mortensen K, Romner B: The epidemiology of hospital-referred head injury in northern Norway. Neuroepidemiology. 1998, 17: 139-146. 10.1159/000026165.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Heskestad B, Baardsen R, Helseth E, Ingebrigtsen T: Guideline compliance in management of mild head injury: High frequency of non-compliance among individual physicians despite strong guideline support from clinical leaders. J Trauma. 2008, 65: 1309-1313. 10.1097/TA.0b013e31815e40cd.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Corrigan JD, Selassie AW, Orman JA: The epidemiology of traumatic brain injury. J Head Trauma Rehabil. 2010, 25: 72-80. 10.1097/HTR.0b013e3181ccc8b4.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Parry-Jones BL, Vaughan FL, Miles CW: Traumatic brain injury and substance misuse: a systematic review of prevalence and outcomes research (1994-2004). Neuropsychol Rehabil. 2006, 16: 537-560. 10.1080/09602010500231875.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Andelic N, Jerstad T, Sigurdardottir S, Schanke AK, Sandvik L, Roe C: Effects of acute substance use and pre-injury substance abuse on traumatic brain injury severity in adults admitted to a trauma centre. J Trauma Manag Outcomes. 2010, 4: 6-10.1186/1752-2897-4-6.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Guruaj G: The effect of alchohol on incidence, pattern, severity and outcome from traumatic brain injury. J Indian Med Assoc. 2004, 102: 157-160. 163Google Scholar
  12. Levy DT, Mallonee S, Miller TR, Smith GS, Spicer RS, Romano EO, Fisher DA: Alcohol involvement in burn, submersion, spinal cord and brain injuries. Med Sci Monit. 2004, 10: 17-24.Google Scholar
  13. Ingebrigtsen T, Romner B, Kock-Jensen C: Scandinavian guidelines for initial management of minimal, mild, and moderate head injuries. The Scandinavian Neurotrauma Committee. J Trauma. 2000, 48: 760-766. 10.1097/00005373-200004000-00029.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Stein SC, Spettell C: The Head Injury Severity Scale (HISS): a practical classification of closed-head injury. Brain Inj. 1995, 9: 437-444. 10.3109/02699059509008203.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Müller K, Waterloo K, Romner B, Wester K, Ingebrigtsen T: Mild head injuries: Impact of a national strategy for implementation of management guidelines. J Trauma. 2003, 55: 1029-1034. 10.1097/01.TA.0000100371.49160.2A.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Heskestad B, Baardsen R, Helseth E, Romner B, Waterloo K, Ingebrigtsen T: Incidence of hospital referred head injuries in Norway: a population based survey from the Stavanger region. Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med. 2009, 17: 6-10.1186/1757-7241-17-6.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Teasdale G, Jennett B: Assessment of coma and impaired consciousness. A practical scale. Lancet. 1974, 304: 81-84. 10.1016/S0140-6736(74)91639-0.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  18. R Development Core Team: R: A language and environment for statistical computing. 2010, R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria, ISBN 3-900051-07-0, [http://www.R-project.org]Google Scholar
  19. Rickels E, von Wild K, Wenzlaff P: Head injury in Germany: A population-based prospective study on epidemiology, causes, treatment and outcome of all degrees of head-injury severity in two distinct areas. Brain Inj. 2010, 24: 1491-1504. 10.3109/02699052.2010.498006.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. World Health Organization, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention: Alcohol and Injury in Emergency Departments - Summary of the Report from the WHO Collaborative Study on Alcohol and Injuries. 2007, ISBN 978 92 4 159485 1, [http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/alcohol_injury_summary.pdf]Google Scholar
  21. MacLeod JB, Hungerford DW: Alcohol-related injury visits: do we know the true prevalence in U.S. trauma centres?. Injury. 2010, 41: 847-851.Google Scholar
  22. Moskowitz H, Fiorentino D: A Review of the Literature on the Effects of Low Doses of Alcohol on Driving-Related Skills. Final Report. 2000, Prepared for U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, [http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/pub/Hs809028/Title.htm#Contents]Google Scholar
  23. Vonghia L, Leggio L, Ferulli A, Bertini M, Gasbarrini G, Addolorato G, Alcoholism Treatment Study Group: Acute alcohol intoxication. Eur J Intern Med. 2008, 19: 561-567. 10.1016/j.ejim.2007.06.033.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Sperry JL, Genitello LM, Minei JP, Diaz-Arrastia RR, Friese RS, Shafi S: Waiting for the patient to "sober up": Effect of alcohol intoxication on glasgow coma scale score. J Trauma. 2006, 61: 1305-1311. 10.1097/01.ta.0000240113.13552.96.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Stuke L, Diaz-Arrastia R, Gentilello LM, Shafi S: Effect of alcohol on Glasgow Coma Scale in head-injured patients. Ann Surg. 2007, 245: 651-655. 10.1097/01.sla.0000250413.41265.d3.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Lange RT, Iverson GL, Brubacher JR, Franzen MD: Effect of blood alcohol level on Glasgow Coma Scale scores following traumatic brain injury. Brain Inj. 2010, 24: 919-927. 10.3109/02699052.2010.489794.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright

© Harr et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2011

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Advertisement