Screening Adolescent Trauma Patients for Substance Use at 10 Pediatric Trauma Centers

J Trauma Nurs. 2020 Nov/Dec;27(6):313-318. doi: 10.1097/JTN.0000000000000537.


Background: The American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma recommends universal alcohol screening be part of the evaluation of admitted trauma patients. Yet, suboptimal screening rates have been reported for admitted adult and adolescent trauma patients. This lack of screening, in turn, has limited the ability of trauma services to provide patients with brief interventions during their hospital admission and subsequent referrals to treatment after discharge. The primary aim of this study was to examine current rates of alcohol and other drug screening with admitted injured adolescents across a national cohort of 10 pediatric trauma centers.

Methods: This retrospective observational study was nested within a larger adolescent screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment implementation study ( NCT03297060). Ten pediatric trauma centers participated in a retrospective chart review of a random sample of adolescent trauma patients presenting for care between March 1, 2018, and November 30, 2018.

Results: Three hundred charts were abstracted across the 10 participating trauma centers (n = 30 per site). Screening rates varied substantially across centers from five (16.7%) to 28 (93.3%) of the 30 extracted charts. The most frequent screening type documented was blood alcohol concentration (BAC) (N = 80, 35.2% of all screens), followed by the CRAFFT (N = 79, 26.3%), and then the urine drug screen (UDS) (N = 77, 25.6%). The BAC test identified 11 patients as positive for recent alcohol use. The CRAFFT identified 11 positive patients.

Conclusions: Alcohol and drug screening is underutilized for adolescents admitted to pediatric trauma centers. More research is warranted on how best to utilize the teachable moment of the pediatric trauma visit to ensure comprehensive screening of adolescent alcohol or other drug (AOD) use.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Alcohol Content
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Substance-Related Disorders*
  • Trauma Centers
  • Trauma Nursing
  • Wounds and Injuries*


  • Blood Alcohol Content

Associated data