17 Dec 2015

Ethanol exposure and traumatic brain injury

By Dr Jodie Abramovitch

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an important health issue, being a major cause of death and disability worldwide. When a TBI occurs in the absence of injury to the rest of the body, it is known as an isolated TBI (iTBI). Ethanol exposure or intoxication is commonly associated with iTBI. However, following injury, the effects of ethanol in the brain are unknown.

How does ethanol affect the brain?
Researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine (DEPM) and the Department of Surgery, alongside colleagues from the Alfred Hospital’s Emergency and Trauma Centre and National Trauma Research Institute, have recently investigated the association between ethanol exposure leading to iTBI and in-hospital mortality rates.

Using data from patients who presented to the Alfred Hospital with an iTBI from 2006-2012, it was identified that 34% of these were associated with ethanol exposure. There was no difference in in-hospital mortality for those with an ethanol-related iTBI or other iTBI.

This study concluded that whilst ethanol is associated with a large proportion of iTBI, it does not increase or decrease chance of death. Further study is required to determine if ethanol is protective or harmful to the brain following TBI.

Reference: Brennan JHBernard S, Cameron PAOlaussen AFitzgerald MCRosenfeld JVMitra BEthanol exposure and isolated traumatic brain injury. J Clin Neurosci. 2015 Dec: 22;1928-32
doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2015.05.034.
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