The Prevalence of Positive Drug and Alcohol Screens in Elderly Trauma Patients

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Background: Alcohol and drug abuse are recognized to be significantly prevalent in trauma patients, and are frequent harbingers of injury. The incidence of substance abuse in elderly trauma patients has, however, been limitedly examined. The authors sought to identify the spectrum of positive alcohol and drug toxicology screens in patients ≥65 years admitted to a Level I trauma center.

Methods: Patients ≥65 years old admitted to an American College of Surgeons (ACS) Level I trauma center over a 60--month period were identified from the trauma registry. Demographic data, blood alcohol content (BAC), and urine drug screen (UDS) results at admission were obtained and analyzed. The positive results were compared with individuals below 65 years in different substance categories using Fisher's exact test.

Results: In the 5-year period studied, of the 4139 patients ≥65 years, 1302 (31.5%) underwent toxicological substance screening. A positive BAC was present in 11.1% of these patients and a positive UDS in 48.3%. The mean BAC level in those tested was 163 mg/dL and 69% of patients had a level >80 mg/dL.

Conclusions: These data show that alcohol and drug abuse are an issue in patients ≥65 years in our institution, though not as pervasive a problem as in younger populations. Admission toxicology screens, however, are important as an aid to identify geriatric individuals who may require intervention.



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