Impact of blood alcohol concentration on hematologic and serum chemistry parameters in trauma patients: Analysis of data from a high-volume level 1 trauma center

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International Journal of Critical Illness and Injury Science


Background: Alcohol (EtOH) intoxication is common among trauma patients. While providers are familiar with the clinical aspects of acute EtOH intoxication, few studies have investigated the effects that EtOH levels may have on common laboratory markers. The aim of this study was to identify hematologic and serum chemistry parameters that may be affected by the blood alcohol concentration (BAC), hypothesizing that BAC influences both comprehensive blood count (CBC) and comprehensive serum chemistry (CSC) components. Methods: We performed an IRB-exempt institutional registry review of all trauma patients who had serum EtOH levels measured between January 2009 and June 2015. Data for each patient included: patient demographics, BAC determinations (g/dL), injury mechanism/severity information (ISS), hematologic parameters included in a CBC (hemoglobin, hematocrit, white blood cell [WBC] count, and platelet count), and CSC panel components (sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, blood urea nitrogen [BUN], creatinine, glucose, and hepatic function tests). Laboratory markers were contrasted across predefined categories of BAC: <0.10%, 10%-15%, 15%-20%, and >20%. Statistical comparisons were performed using SPSS 18 Software, employing analysis-of-covariance with adjustments performed for the patient demographics and injury characteristics. Statistical significance was set at α = 0.005. Results: A total of 2167 patient records were analyzed. After adjusting for patient age, gender, and ISS, increasing BAC correlated with 4.8% increase in hemoglobin and 32.5% higher hematocrit (both P < 0.001), as well as a 27.8% decrease in WBC count. There were also statistically significant differences between low (<0.10%) and high (>0.20%) BAC groups across multiple CSC parameters, with largest impact on BUN (32.2% decrease); creatinine (31.5% decrease); and glucose (13.6% decrease) values. Elevated BAC (>0.20 g/dL) was also associated with 81.8% increase in total bilirubin, and hepatic transaminases were elevated among patients with BAC >0.10. Conclusion: Due to the paucity of literature relating to the effects of BAC on serum hematologic and biochemical markers in acute trauma, this study provides a foundation for further exploration of these relationships and their clinical impact. More specifically, we found that BAC levels significantly influenced key laboratory markers, suggesting that acute EtOH intoxication may lead to hematologic and CSC changes that are potentially important in acute trauma management by frontline clinical staff.

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