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Brain Injury Awareness Month: Widespread bias in alcohol screening post TBI, says study
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Drinking continues to be quite common among patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, some groups of TBI patients are less likely to be screened for alcohol use, with women and younger patients most likely to be left out, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing in March 2018. Alcohol screening was also found to be less probable for individuals in the mild and critical range of injury severity, basis standard Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) as well as for individuals in the middle range of responsiveness, basis the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS).

For their analysis, the researchers examined 1,591 patients with TBI, out of which 80 percent or 1,273 patients were screened for alcohol use. According to lead authors Chong Cheever and Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, given the systematic bias in alcohol screening among TBI patients, women, younger patients and patients with midrange GCS score could be affected. As per the authors, overcoming the bias and achieving 100 percent alcohol screening rate for all trauma patients would require updated emergency department triage procedure and screening tools, prior to admitting such patients to the neurosurgical intensive care unit.

In the study, alcohol screening was not related to the length of the hospital stay or the performance of urgent decompressive craniectomy (urgent surgery to relieve pressure on the brain) on TBI patients.

TBI and its effects

TBI occurs due to a traumatic injury to the brain caused by an outside force and can involve damage to structures other than the brain, such as the scalp and skull. Considered to be a major cause of death and disability worldwide, TBI can be identified based on the severity of an injury, mechanism involved or other features. TBI can affect all aspects of an individual’s life and can result in memory and attention fluctuations in mood, disability or death.

In the U.S.,  Brain Injury Awareness Month (BIAM) is observed every year in March to raise awareness and increase understanding about the devastating effects of a brain injury. The theme for 2018-20 is ‘Change Your Mind’ in order to educate the masses about brain injuries and the needs of patients and their families.

Those intoxicated at time of TBI run the risk of repeated trauma later

Regardless of the type of injury suffered, alcohol contributes substantially to the morbidity and mortality of trauma patients. Those intoxicated at the time of TBI are at an increased risk of repeated trauma in later years. Although TBI is strongly related to alcohol consumption, it can itself be a risk factor in developing alcohol use disorders. Additionally, substance abuse prior to an injury is a strong indicator of post-TBI disability and non-productivity issues.

In addition to negatively affecting one’s mental abilities like memory and thinking, increasing one’s chances of having problems like anxiety or depression, alcohol can magnify some of the cognitive problems caused by a brain injury. Moreover, being intoxicated at the time of TBI can also mask the injury due to similar symptoms making it even more difficult to diagnose the problem correctly.

Substance abuse may even complicate issues of TBI recovery by contributing to brain damage, increasing the risk of subsequent TBIs and interfering with the natural healing process of the brain, among others. Therefore, staying away from alcohol is highly recommended to avoid any further brain injury and improve the overall health.

Specialized care for alcohol addiction

A leading behavioral and substance abuse treatment center, Sovereign Health of El Paso, Texas, offers specialized treatment for addiction-related disorders. A treatment program for alcohol abuse at our state-of-the-art alcohol abuse treatment center may involve medically or naturally assisted detox, behavioral therapies and counseling services along with relapse prevention methods.

To learn more about our treatment facilities in Texas, or to discuss alcohol abuse treatment program details, contact our experts at the 24/7 helpline number. You can also chat online with a representative for further assistance.

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