Background: Only a few studies investigated the evolution of characteristics of patients presenting at the emergency department (ED) due to alcohol intoxication. The aim of this study was to investigate the evolution of three patient characteristics: age, gender, and blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Methods: A retrospective review of medical records of patients visiting the ED at two large university hospitals in Belgium was performed. All patients older than 16 years, presenting to the ED with a primary diagnosis of alcohol intoxication in 2009 were compared with those presenting in 2014. Results: Both hospitals had a marked increase in visits due to alcohol intoxication. Male-to-female ratio in one hospital showed a redistribution toward women, whereas this remained stable in the other hospital. Average BAC remained stable in both sexes and hospitals. More severe BAC-levels (>3 g/l) diminished in male patients of one hospital but kept stable in women. The other hospital showed no change in more severe BAC-levels (>3 g/l) of both sexes. Conclusion: Since total alcohol consumption in Belgium decreased, but total number of alcohol intoxicated patients increased in both hospitals, there probably has been a change in alcohol consumption pattern. Changes in the characteristics of patients visiting the ED due to alcohol intoxication still turns out to be demographic dependent, since the tendency of more young patients presenting could only be observed in one out of two hospitals. Implementing a screening method for alcohol abuse should be considered at the ED.
Keywords: alcohol intoxication, evolution of characteristics, age distribution, gender, blood alcohol concentration