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Although alcohol consumption is the cause of over 30% of traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s), a new study indicates that low to moderate blood alcohol levels may decrease the chance of death after a head trauma. The study published today in the Archives of Surgery show results that link low to moderate levels of alcohol to TBI recovery. TBI patients with high levels of alcohol are more likely to die from their injuries, while patients with zero to moderate levels of alcohol in their system have a greater chance for survival.

Data from January 1, 1988 to December 31, 2003 was collected on individuals suffering TBI’s in several hospitals, and 1,158 individuals were used for the study. Three blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels were analyzed: no BAC (0 mg/dL); low to moderate (230 mg/dL or less); and high (greater than 230 mg/dL). After considering all other factors that could influence the risk of death (e.g. other trauma and severity of the TBI), it was found that those with low to moderate BAC’s were 24% less likely to suffer a fatality than those with no BAC. It was also found that those with high BAC’s were 73% more likely to die than those with no BAC.

The study’s researchers deduced that when BAC levels are high TBI’s become more difficult for the body to manage. High BAC’s prevent the body from recuperating from a severe TBI because of secondary head injuries that occur after the initial TBI. On the other hand, low to moderate levels of alcohol may work with brain cells to protect the brain and body against a fatality. The alcohol appears to work as a resuscitative fluid in patients suffering from TBI’s. The researchers are careful to warn that the study was conducted on individuals that were already hospitalized and that alcohol consumption must always be done in moderation for safety purposes.

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