Vol 7, No 3 (2022)
Original article
Published online: 2022-09-07

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The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on alcohol-related emergency department visits in a large European city

Hanna Cholerzyńska1, Wiktoria Zasada1, Patryk Konieczka2, Tomasz Kłosiewicz3
Medical Research Journal 2022;7(3):228-233.

Abstract

Introduction: The COVID-19 (Coronavirus infectious disease 2019) pandemic has caused global behavioural changes due to the need to remain in quarantine by large groups of the population. Earlier work on the effects of other epidemics on the human psyche has revealed a possible increase in the number of people who abuse alcohol as a method of coping with mental stress. Despite this, the studies on the COVID-19 pandemic have not shown a clear correlation between lockdowns and quarantines and an increase in alcohol consumption. This study focused on examining the impact of the pandemic on the number of alcohol-related attendances in the Emergency Department in Poznan (Poland).

Material and methods: The periods of one year before the pandemic (control trial) and the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic (study group) were analysed retrospectively using the data of ED patients who were under the documented influence of alcohol. Total number, alcohol concentration, waiting time for a medical examination, the patient’s aggressive behaviour, length of stay in the ED, the need for additional examinations, suturing wounds or endotracheal intubation were analysed.

Results: 954 patients were identified, which constituted 2.9% of all patients admitted to the ED during this period (the total number of patients admitted was 33510). During the control period, the total number of ED admissions was 30388 and 794 (2.6%) of them were in the control group. The median body alcohol concentration was 2.6%%. It has been shown that during the pandemic more women and fewer men under the influence of alcohol were admitted to the ED (212 (22.2%) females and 742 (77.8%) males) than in the pre-pandemic period [135 (17.0%) females and 659 (83.0%) males]. Additional examinations were performed less frequently (84.1% vs. 73.9%; p = 0.00000) and patients were admitted to other departments more often (25.7% vs. 40.9%; p = 0.00000). Other examined parameters did not change significantly.

Conclusions: The study shows an increase in the number of patients under the influence of alcohol during the pandemic presenting to the ED and a noticeable change in management patterns’ variables such as shorter LOW, fewer performed laboratory tests and more admissions to wards. However, this data requires further analysis and comparison with studies from other centres to draw more general conclusions.

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