5 October 2009

Booze a lifesaver

by Kate Melville

Research at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA suggests that trauma patients who were intoxicated before their injuries were more likely to survive than trauma patients who suffered similar injuries but were sober at the time

The study, published in American Surgeon, involved surveying nearly 8,000 trauma patients of similar age and with similar injuries to determine if the consumption of alcohol prior to injury affected outcome. Significantly, the researchers found 7 percent of the sober patients died compared to just 1 percent of the patients who had been drinking.

"This study is not encouraging the use of alcohol," cautioned Christian de Virgilio, LA BioMed's principal investigator for the study. "It is seeking to further explore earlier studies that had found alcohol may improve the body's response to severe injuries. If alcohol is proven to improve the body's response to traumatic injury, it could lead to treatments that help patients survive and recover more quickly."

While previous studies found trauma patients who had abused alcohol for a long period of time had lower survival rates, more recent research found that alcohol consumption may protect against death by changing the chemical response to injury. "This study adds further support to the possibility that alcohol could be altering the body's response to injury in a way that helps ensure survival," said Dr. de Virgilio. "Given these findings, more research is needed to determine if there is some role for alcohol in the management of trauma patients."

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Source: Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute