Implications of alcohol intoxication at the time of burn and smoke inhalation injury: an epidemiologic and clinical analysis

J Burn Care Res. 2013 Jan-Feb;34(1):120-6. doi: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e3182644c58.


Up to 50% of burn patient fatalities have a history of alcohol use, and for those surviving to hospitalization, alcohol intoxication may increase the risk of infection and mortality. Yet, the effect of binge drinking on burn patients, specifically those with inhalation injuries, is not well described. We aimed to investigate the epidemiology and outcomes of this select patient population. In a prospective study, 53 patients with an inhalation injury and a documented blood alcohol content (BAC) were grouped as BAC negative (n = 37), BAC = 1 to 79 mg/dl (n = 4), and BAC ≥ 80 mg/dl (n = 12). Those in the last group were designated as binge drinkers according to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism criteria. Binge drinkers with an inhalation injury had considerably smaller %TBSA burns than did their nondrinking counterparts (mean %TBSA 10.6 vs 24.9; P = .065) and significantly lower revised Baux scores (mean 75.9 vs 94.9; P = .030). Despite binge drinkers having smaller injuries, the groups did not differ in terms of outcomes and resource utilization. Finally, those in the binge-drinking group had considerably higher carboxyhemoglobin levels (median 5.2 vs 23.0; P = .026) than did nondrinkers. Binge drinkers with inhalation injuries surviving to hospitalization had less severe injuries than did nondrinkers, although their outcomes and burden to the healthcare infrastructure were similar to the nondrinking patients. Our findings affirm the effect of alcohol intoxication at the time of burn and smoke inhalation injury, placing renewed emphasis on injury prevention and alcohol abuse education.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / epidemiology*
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Burns / epidemiology*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoke Inhalation Injury / epidemiology*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • United States / epidemiology