Intoxicated ED patients: a 5-year follow-up of morbidity and mortality

Ann Emerg Med. 1997 Nov;30(5):593-7. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(97)70074-x.


Study objectives: To determine the rates of alcohol-related morbidity and mortality in a cohort of intoxicated ED patients 5 years after presentation and to compare them with those of non-intoxicated ED patients.

Methods: The study group comprised 150 consecutive ED patients who presented with intoxication (blood alcohol level higher than 100 mg/dL) in June 1986 and 50 control patients matched for age, sex, ED arrival time, and date. The setting was an urban university hospital ED. Morbidity and mortality over a 5-year follow-up period were measured using hospital ED and admission records from all state Level I trauma centers and computerized statewide databases.

Results: The 5-year mortality rate among alcohol-intoxicated patients was 2.4 times that of the comparison group (95% confidence interval, .3 to 18.9). The 5-year death rate among intoxicated patients aged 40 to 69 years was especially high (19%). Thirty-seven percent of the intoxicated patients made at least one alcohol-related ED revisit during the follow-up period, compared with 6% of the comparison group (P < .001). Intoxicated patients were more likely to revisit EDs because of suicidal behavior or domestic violence (P = .001). Admission to an alcohol detoxification unit during the follow-up period occurred in 24% of the intoxicated patients, compared with 10% of the sober controls (P = .03). At least one arrest for drunk driving occurred in 47% of the intoxicated group; the rate was lower, but still substantial, in the comparison group (20%, P < .001).

Conclusion: A single alcohol-related ED visit is an important predictor of continued problem drinking, alcohol-impaired driving and, possibly, premature death.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / blood
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / complications*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / mortality*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / mortality
  • Cause of Death*
  • Colorado
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Urban Population