Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock
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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 268-273

Prevalence and consequences of positive blood alcohol levels among patients injured at work

1 School of Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, 3601 4th St, Lubbock Texas, USA
2 Department of Surgery, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, 3601 4th St, Lubbock Texas, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sharmila D Dissanaike
Department of Surgery, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, 3601 4th St, Lubbock Texas
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Source of Support: TTUHSC Clinical Research Institute and the UMC Trauma and Burn Services Department., Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0974-2700.142748

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Aims: The aim of this study was to characterize positive blood alcohol among patients injured at work, and to compare the severity of injury and outcome of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) positive and negative patients. Settings and Design: A retrospective cohort study was performed at a Level 1 academic trauma center. Patients injured at work between 01/01/07 and 01/01/12 and admitted with positive (BAC+) vs negative (BAC-) blood alcohol were compared using bivariate analysis. Results: Out of 823, 319 subjects were tested for BAC (38.8%), of whom 37 were BAC+ (mean 0.151 g/dL, range 0.015-0.371 g/dL). Age (41 years), sex (97.2% men), race, intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital length of stay (LOS), and mortality were similar between groups. Nearly half of BAC+ cases were farming injuries (18, 48.6%): Eight involved livestock, five involved all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), three involved heavy equipment, one fell, and one had a firearm injury. Eight (21.6%) were construction site injuries involving falls from a roof or scaffolding, five (13.5%) were semi-truck collisions, four (10.8%) involved falls from a vehicle in various settings, and two (5.4%) were crush injuries at an oilfield. BAC+ subjects were less likely to be injured in construction sites and oilfields, including vehicle-related falls (2.3 vs 33.9%, P < 0.0001). Over half of BAC+ (n = 20, 54%) subjects were alcohol dependent; three (8.1%) also tested positive for cocaine on admission. No BAC+ subjects were admitted to rehabilitation compared to 33 (11.7%) of BAC- subjects. Workers' compensation covered a significantly smaller proportion of BAC+ patients (16.2 vs 61.0%, P < 0.0001). Conclusions: Alcohol use in the workplace is more prevalent than commonly suspected, especially in farming and other less regulated industries. BAC+ is associated with less insurance coverage, which probably affects resources available for post-discharge rehabilitation and hospital reimbursement.

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