RESEARCH – April 2006

Alcohol and severe damage of the central nervous system


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Head injury is the leading cause of death and disability in trauma patients and alcohol abuse is often associated with such injuries. Brain damage caused by alcohol abuse is also associated with epileptic seizures among such persons.
The aim of the study was to analyse the causes of severe head trauma and the modalities of treatment of these patients in the neurointensive care unit (NICU) of Tartu University hospital in 2005. We also analysed the structure of the patients admitted in the NICU in 1997–2004 with status epilepticus.
Material and method. The medical documentation of the patients admitted in the NICU with severe head trauma and status epilepticus was analysed with special attention to the association of damage with alcohol drinking habits.
Results. In 2005 167 patients with severe head trauma were admitted in the NICU. In 90 patients  (54%) the trauma was associated with alcohol drinking. In 43 patients (48%) the real mechanism of trauma remained unknown – the patients were occasionally found in the status of unconsciousness.
All of these patients had intracranial lesions and they were operated and needed artificial ventilation during 1–7 days. Mortality rate among the patients with severe head trauma was 21%.
In the period 1997–2004, 122 patients with status epilepticus were admitted. Of them, 61% had had epileptic seizures during some years. Alcohol misuse as the cause of epileptic seizures was revealed in 39 patients (57%).
Conclusion. Severe head trauma and status epilepticus are often associated with alcohol misuse.