The frequency of unsuspected minor illness or injury in intoxicated patients

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Abstract

Objective: To determine the frequency of unsuspected minor illness or injury in a group of patients frequently seen in the ED for acute intoxication. Methods: The medical records of the 20 patients seen most frequently in the ED for acute intoxication in 1993 were reviewed for the number of ED visits for intoxication, the number of associated documented episodes of minor trauma or illness, the extent of ED workup of discovered illness or injury, and patient disposition from the ED. Results: The 20 study patients were evaluated in the ED 1,858 times in 1993 for acute intoxication, a mean of 92.5 visits/patient (±26.6). The most frequent injury was minor trauma above the neck, occurring a mean of 9 times (±3.6) in each of the study patients during 1993. Evaluation included repeated neurologic examinations and frequent radiography of the cervical spine (n = 80), skull (n = 5), facial bones (n = 6), and mandible (n = 5). A limited number of head CT scans also were done (n = 8). The most frequent minor illnesses were gastritis (n = 7), managed with hydration, and mild hypothermia (n = 6), managed with passive rewarming. Conclusions: The incidence of unsuspected minor illness or injury in this patient group was substantial. While most unsuspected medical problems had little clinical significance, some were potentially dangerous, and some necessitated hospitalization (e.g., hypothermia, hematemesis, and respiratory depression).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)853-858
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Volume3
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1996

Keywords

  • alcohol intoxication
  • minor head trauma
  • minor trauma
  • occult illness

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