Injured patients who have alcohol in their blood have a lower chance of dying in the hospital.

The finding came from research at the University of Illinois at Chigaco School of Public Health and will be published in the December issue of the journal Alcohol. The study also demonstrated that the more alcohol is in a peron’s body, the higher chance they have of surviving.

“This study is not encouraging people to drink,” explained UIC injury epidemiologist Lee Friedman, researcher of the study. Alcohol intoxication, even if it is just minor, is linked to a higher risk of being wounded, he added.

Friedman, who is also an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at UIC, said:

“However, after an injury, if you are intoxicated there seems to be a pretty substantial protective effect. The more alcohol you have in your system, the more the protective effect.”

Illinois Trauma Registry data was examined for the purpose of the study, which contained information on 190,612 people that received treatment at trauma centers between 1995 and 2009.

The patients’ blood alcohol content was analyzed and ranged from zero to 0.5 percent at the time they were taken into the trauma unit. Out of those patients, there were 6,733 deaths that took place in the hospital.

The association between alcohol dosage with in-hospital mortality due to traumatic injuries, including internal injuries, fractures, and open wounds, was closely observed.

Results showed that patients suffering from all injuries, except from a burn, received benefits from alcohol. The advantages grew larger from the lowest blood concentration (less than .1 percent) through the highest levels (up to .5 percent).

Friedman said:

“At the higher levels of blood alcohol concentration, there was a reduction of almost 50 percent in hospital mortality rates. This protective benefit persists even after taking into account injury severity and other factors known to be strongly associated with mortality following an injury.”

There has been little research on the physiological mechanisms associated with alcohol and injury in people. However, a neuro-protective impact from alcohol was seen in certain animal studies, but unfortunately, the majority of animal studies and prior research on humans conflict with each other due to dissimilar research criteria.

It is critical for doctors to identify patients who are inebriated, Friedman explained, but they also need to know how alcohol can change the series of treatment.

More studies need to be conducted on the biomechanism of the protective occurrence. If scientists can understand this mechanism, “we could then treat patients post-injury, either in the field or when they arrive at the hospital, with drugs that mimic alcohol,” Friedman concluded.

Written by Sarah Glynn