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Binge Drinking Can Complicate Recovery from Burn Injuries, Study Finds

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Binge drinking may complicate recovery from burn injuries, according to a study presented at the American Burn Association Annual Meeting.

The study compared burn patients who were intoxicated above the legal limit, with burn patients who did not have any alcohol in their blood, according to Medical News Today. The researchers, from Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, found that although binge drinkers’ injuries were much less severe than other burn patients, they experienced similar rates of sepsis, a life-threatening bloodstream infection, as well as pneumonia. Both groups of patients spent similar amounts of time on a ventilator, in the intensive care unit, and in the hospital.

The median hospitalization cost for binge drinkers who were burned was $221,000, almost as high as the cost for non-drinkers who had much worse burns.

“Among binge drinkers, even relatively minor injuries can result in serious complications and prolonged hospital stays,” study author Elizabeth J. Kovacs, PhD, said in a news release.

Study co-author Christopher S. Davis, MD, MPH, said there are several likely reasons why binge drinkers may have difficult recoveries from burns, even though their injuries may be relatively minor. Intoxication weakens the immune system, which slows healing and makes patients more at risk of infection, he said.

Davis also pointed out carbon monoxide poisoning levels in burned binge drinkers were more than four times higher than the levels in burn patients who did not drink, probably because it took binge drinkers a longer time to escape the fire. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause effects including brain damage, which can complicate recovery, he said.

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