AIMS: Alcohol intoxication is a source of significant illness and injury commonly resulting in emergency department (ED) visits. We characterize recent trends in alcohol-related visits to US EDs using nationally representative data.
METHODS: We conducted a retrospective review of data on national ED visits among patients aged 18 years or older with alcohol intoxication between 2001 and 2011 using the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS). Demographic and resource utilization trends in alcohol-related visits were examined. We also assessed ED length of stay (LOS) across the study period, as well as the total hours spent on ED care for alcohol-related complaints.
RESULTS: Between 2001-2002 and 2010-2011, alcohol-related visits increased from 2,459,748 to 3,856,346 (P = 0.049). Utilization of resources such as laboratory tests, medications and radiography increased, with the use of advanced imaging (i.e. computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging) increasing 232.2% (P < 0.001) from 2001-2002 to 2010-2011. Overall LOS increased 16.1% (P = 0.028), while LOS among patients admitted to the hospital increased 24.9% (P = 0.076). Total alcohol-related hours spent in EDs nationwide increased from 5.6 million in 2001 to 11.6 million in 2011, an increase of 108.5% (P < 0.001) compared with an increase in overall ED hours of 54.0% (P < 0.001).
CONCLUSION: Alcohol-related ED visits are increasing at a greater rate than overall ED visits and represent a growing burden on hospital resources.