Patients who suffered traumatic injuries were more likely to survive if they had alcohol in their blood, according to a recent study from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.
"This study is not encouraging people to drink," UIC injury epidemiologist and study author Lee Friedman cautioned in a press release. Even minor inebriation is linked to an increased risk of getting injured. "However, after an injury, if you are intoxicated there seems to be a pretty substantial protective effect. The more alcohol you have in your system, the more the protective effect."
The study will be published in the December issue of the journal Alcohol.
Friedman analyzed Illinois Trauma Registry data for 190,612 patients treated at trauma centers between 1995 and 2009. The patients were tested for blood alcohol content, which ranged from zero to 0.5 percent at the time they were admitted to the trauma unit. Of that group, 6,733 died in the hospital.
The study examined the relationship of alcohol dosage to deaths in the hospital following such injuries as fractures, internal injuries and open wounds. Alcohol benefited injured patients across the board, except for those who suffered burns. The effect was notable for patients with blood alcohol concentration levels of 0.1 percent up to 0.5 percent.
"At the higher levels of blood alcohol concentration, there was a reduction of almost 50 percent in hospital mortality rates," Friedman said in a prepared statement. "This protective benefit persists even after taking into account injury severity and other factors known to be strongly associated with mortality following an injury."
Further research is needed to understand how alcohol benefits injured patients.
"We could then treat patients post-injury, either in the field or when they arrive at the hospital, with drugs that mimic alcohol," Friedman said.