In a development that may seem counterintuitive, certain preliminary research findings suggest that those who suffer a traumatic brain injury paradoxically may have a better chance of survival if they have some liquor in the bloodstream at the time. So reports Reuters and other news agencies.
The study was published in the September 2009 issue of the Archives of Surgery.
Ali Salim, M.D., of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and his colleagues analyzed data from about 38,000 patients between 2000 and 2005 with moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries whose blood alcohol levels were tested on admission to the hospital.
Of those, 38 percent tested positive, and tended to be younger, have less severe injuries, and spent less time on a ventilator or in the intensive care unit than those with no alcohol in their bloodstreams. And non-drinkers had a higher in-hospital death rate than the drinkers (9.7 percent compared with 7.7 percent). The study explains, however, that drinkers suffered other medical complications.
Dr. Salim emphasized that the combination of drinking and driving “is and will always continue to be bad.” And the study was careful to explain that alcohol contributes to nearly 40 percent of traffic fatalities and the risk of dying is obviously increased while driving under the influence. “However, of those patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury who survive their initial insult those with alcohol in their system seem to have a slight survival advantage compared to those without alcohol in their system,” Dr. Salim added.
How alcohol might be associated with a reduced risk of death in patients with brain injuries is still unknown, the study concedes. One theory is that alcohol may lessen the body’s inflammatory response to the injury, but scientists will have to investigate further to determine whether giving alcohol to patients with brain injuries could be a legitimate treatment option.
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