Saturday February 24, 1996

Alcohol and drug use linked to fractures

A study of hospital trauma center records of patients admitted with fractures found that 30 percent were legally intoxicated and 22 percent tested positive for one or more illicit drug substances in their blood.

Presented Friday in poster exhibit B 38, the study of records of 1,126 patients found that overall, 54 percent of patients tested positive for alcohol or illicit substances. The patients were treated at the Level I trauma center of Herrmann Hospital, Houston, in 1993 and 1994.

Another 650 patients treated in the trauma center for fractures in the same period were not tested for blood alcohol content (BAC). "Even if the 650 patients had a negative BAC, the prevalence of positive BAC would still be 26 percent," said Mark R. Brinker, MD, co-author of the study.

Sixty percent of the patients had sustained injury in motor vehicle accidents; 13 percent in falls; 7 percent as pedestrians hit by autos; and 5 percent from gunshot wounds.

"From our data, we are unable to draw definite conclusions as to the cause and effect relationship between intoxication and fractures, however, the fact that greater than one in four of our patients was legally intoxicated and over half tested positive for blood alcohol or illicit substances is highly suggestive of this relationship," Dr. Brinker said.

"Drug and alcohol intoxication could become an even more serious medical and socioeconomic problem. With the changing face of health care, intoxication may become an important issue as an increasing number of third-party payers refuse to pay hospitals and physicians for the treatment of patients whose injuries were sustained while intoxicated."

Co-authors of the study are Dr. Brinker; Robert B. Blake, MD; Caeser Ursic, MD; Michael Clark; and Dennis D. Cox, PhD.

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