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Open Access Research

Resource utilization and outcomes of intoxicated drivers

Robert A Cherry1*, Pamela A Nichols1, Theresa M Snavely1, Lindsay J Camera2 and David T Mauger2

Author Affiliations

1 Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Department of Surgery, Shock Trauma Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033, USA

2 Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Public Health Sciences, Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033, USA

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Journal of Trauma Management & Outcomes 2010, 4:9  doi:10.1186/1752-2897-4-9

Published: 5 August 2010

Abstract

Background

The high risk behavior of intoxicated drivers, impaired reaction time, lack of seat belt use, and increased incidence of head injury raises questions of whether pre-hospital use of alcohol leads to a higher injury severity score and worse clinical outcomes. We therefore compared intoxicated and non-intoxicated drivers of motor vehicle crashes with respect to outcome measurements and also describe the resources utilized to achieve those outcomes at our Level 1 trauma center.

Methods

Retrospective descriptive study (Jan 2002-June 2007) of our trauma registry and financial database comparing intoxicated drivers with blood alcohol levels (BAC) > 80 mg/dl (ETOH > 80) with drivers who had a BAC of 0 mg/dl (ETOH = 0). Drivers without a BAC drawn or who had levels ranging from 1 mg/dL to 80 mg/dL were excluded. Data was collected on demographic information (age, gender, injury severity score or ISS), outcome variables (mortality, complications, ICU and hospital LOS, ventilator days) and resource utilization (ED LOS, insurance, charges, costs, payments). Statistical analysis: p < 0.05 vs. ETOH > 80; stratified chi square.

Results

Out of 1732 drivers, the combined study group (n = 987) of 623 ETOH = 0 and 364 ETOH > 80 had a mean age of 38.8 ± 17.9, ISS of 18.0 ± 12.1, and 69.8%% male. There was no difference in ISS (p = 0.67) or complications (p = 0.38). There was a trend towards decreased mortality (p = 0.06). The ETOH = 0 group had more patients with a prolonged ICU LOS (≥ 5 days), ventilator days (≥ 8 days), and hospital LOS (> 14 days) when compared to the ETOH > 80 group (p < 0.05). The ETOH > 80 group tended to be self pay (4.9% vs. 0.7%, p < 0.5) and less likely to generate payment for hospital charges (p < 0.5). Hospital charges and costs were higher in the ETOH = 0 group (p < 0.5).

Conclusions

The data suggests that intoxicated drivers may have better outcomes and a trend towards reduced mortality. They appeared to be less likely to have prolonged hospital LOS, ICU LOS, and ventilator days. We also observed that intoxicated drivers were more likely to be self-pay, less likely to have charges > $50K, and less likely to pay ≥ 90% of the charges. Further research using multivariable analysis is needed to determine if these apparent outcomes differences are driven by acute intoxication, and the tendency for endotracheal intubation and ICU admission, rather than injury severity.