Alcohol-related harm in emergency departments: a prospective, multi-centre study

Diana Egerton-Warburton, Andrew Gosbell, Katie Moore, Angela Wadsworth, Drew Richardson, Daniel M. Fatovich

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35 Citations (Scopus)


Background and aims: Emergency department (ED) alcohol-related presentation data are not routinely collected in Australia and New Zealand. It is likely that previous research has underestimated the numbers of patients presenting with alcohol-related conditions. This study aimed to quantify the level of alcohol harm presenting to EDs in Australia and New Zealand [Correction added on 23 Jan 2018, after first online publication: The ‘aims’ section was missing and is updated in this version]. Design: Multi-centre, prospective study. Patients were screened prospectively for alcohol-related presentations during a 7-day period in December 2014. Part 1 involved screening to determine alcohol-positive ED presentations and data collection of patient demographic and clinical information. Part 2 involved a consent-based survey conducted with patients aged ≥ 14 years to perform Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) scores. Setting: Eight EDs in Australia and New Zealand, representing differing hospital role delineations. Participants: A total of 8652 patients aged ≥ 14 years attended and 8435 (97.5%) were screened. Measurements: The main outcome measure was the proportion of patients who had an alcohol-related presentation termed ‘alcohol-positive’, using pre-defined criteria. It included injuries, intoxication, medical conditions and injuries caused by an alcohol-affected third party. Secondary outcomes included demographic and clinical information, the type of alcohol-related presentations and AUDIT scores. Findings: A total of 801 [9.5%; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 8.9–10.1%] presentations were identified as alcohol-positive, ranging between 4.9 and 15.2% throughout sites. Compared with alcohol-negative patients, alcohol-positive patients were more likely to be male [odds ratio (OR) = 1.90, 95% CI = 1.63–2.21], younger (median age 37 versus 46 years, P < 0.0001), arrive by ambulance (OR = 1.94, 95% CI = 1.68–2.25) or police/correctional vehicle (OR = 4.56, 95% CI = 3.05–6.81) and require immediate treatment (OR = 3.20, 95% CI = 2.03–05.06). The median AUDIT score was 16 (interquartile range = 10–24). Conclusions: Almost one in 10 presentations to emergency departments in Australia and New Zealand are alcohol related.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-632
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Alcohol
  • alcohol policy
  • alcohol-related presentations
  • Australasia
  • emergency department
  • public health

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