Preventing trips to the trauma unit

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Jana MacLeod, MD:
Preventing trips to the trauma unit
January 21, 2010

Stories of drunk drivers walking away from wrecks are not unheard of. But the norm is this: those who drink before an accident of any kind, particularly a motor vehicle accident, have a much higher chance of being injured or dying than if they hadn’t been drinking at all.

Studies indicate that from 30 to 50 percent of patients who are admitted to trauma centers misused alcohol preceding their injury. However, these patients are not necessarily alcoholics, rather they may have a history of alcohol misuse.

So, Jana MacLeod, MD, and her colleagues trained surgical interns to conduct brief interventions on patients with alcohol-related injuries. MacLeod is an associate professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine. She says brief interventions offer patients a way to talk about their alcohol use with their physician, and then make behavioral changes if they so choose.

In fact, studies indicate a five-minute intervention reduces hazardous drinking patterns up to three years after injury and decreases recidivism.

"As a trauma surgeon, it behooves me to try to do something to impact this, to change this, because it is such a huge risk factor for severity of injury and recurrent injury," says MacLeod.

To hear MacLeod's own words about alcohol-related injuries and how intervention can reduce their occurrence, use the player at the top of this page or subscribe to the podcast.