Alcohol use increases diagnostic testing, procedures, charges, and the risk of hospital admission: A population-based study of injured patients in the emergency department

Terence S Okeeffe, Peter M Rhee, Shahid Shafi, Randall S Friese, Larry M. Gentilello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Background: Alcohol use may alter mental status and vital signs in injured patients, leading to increased testing during emergency department (ED) evaluation. We hypothesized that alcohol use increases the hospital charges when caring for these injured patients. Methods: The National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey collects weighted population-based estimates of ED use. We analyzed injury-related visits of adult patients, and resource use and admission rates were compared by the presence of alcohol. Results: Alcohol was involved in 6.0% of injury-related ED visits. Alcohol-present patients arrived by ambulance more frequently (45% vs 21%, P <.001), had a 26% longer ED stay (211 vs 167 minutes, P <.001), and underwent more diagnostic testing. They were twice as likely to be admitted (14.0% vs 6.5%, P <.001). Additional ED charges were over $217 million. Conclusions: Patients with alcohol-related injuries use significantly more resources, with a significant added financial burden. Insurance companies in many states can deny coverage for injuries caused by alcohol use, shifting these expenses to trauma centers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-22
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013



  • Alcohol
  • Charges and cost analysis
  • Wounds and injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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