Alcohol abuse and traumatic brain injury: quantitative magnetic resonance imaging and neuropsychological outcome

J Neurotrauma. 2004 Feb;21(2):137-47. doi: 10.1089/089771504322778604.


Prior or concurrent alcohol use at the time of traumatic brain injury (TBI) was examined in terms of post-injury atrophic changes measured by quantitative analysis of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neuropsychological outcome. Two groups of TBI subjects were examined: those with a clinically significant blood alcohol level (BAL) present at the time of injury (TBI + BAL) and those without a significant BAL (TBI-only). To explore the potential impact of both acute and chronic alcohol use, subjects in both groups were further clustered into one of four subgroups (NONE, MILD, MODERATE or HEAVY) based upon available information regarding their pre-injury alcohol use. One-way analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) and multiple analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) were used with subject grouping as the main factor. Age, injury severity as measured by Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score, years of education, total intracranial volume (TICV), and the number of days post-injury were included as covariates where appropriate. Increased general atrophy was observed in patients with (a) a positive BAL and/or (b) a history of moderate to heavy pre-injury alcohol use. In addition, performance on neuropsychological outcome variables (WAIS-R and WMS-R Index scores) was generally worse in the subgroups of patients with positive BAL and a history of preinjury alcohol use, as compared to the other TBI groups though not statistically significant. Implications of alcohol use, at the time of brain injury, are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / complications*
  • Alcoholism / pathology*
  • Atrophy
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / blood
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol