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Alcohol use and trauma in Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth, South Africa: 1999-2001

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Objective. To assess acute alcohol intoxication among patients presenting with recent injuries at trauma units in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban from 1999 to 2001. Design. Cross-sectional surveys were conducted during a four-week period in each of the above sites in 1999, 2000 and 2001. The concept of an 'idealised week' was used to render representative samples. Breath-alcohol concentrations were assessed in a total of 1900 patients using a Lion SD2 alcolmeter. Results. Over half of all the patients experienced violent injuries. Across sites and for each respective year of the survey, between 35.8% and 78.9% of patients tested positive for alcohol. Between 16.5% and 67.0% had a breath-alcohol concentration greater than or equal to 0.05g/100ml. Port Elizabeth consistently had the highest proportion of patients testing positive for alcohol. Patients injured as a result of violence were more likely to test positive for alcohol than patient who sustained road traffic or other unintentional injuries. Conclusions. Alcohol involvement among trauma patients remained consistently high for each of the three study periods. Efforts to combat the abuse of alcohol would appear to paramount in reducing the burden of injuries on health care services.

Keywords: Alcohol; South Africa; injury; trauma

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Alcoholand Drug Abuse Research Group Medical Research Council Tygerberg South Africa 2: Crime, Violence and Injury Lead Programme Medical Research Council Tygerberg South Africa

Publication date: 2004-12-01

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