30% drop in the number of alcohol-related admissions to its intensive care unit.
The study, conducted in St James’s Hospital ICU over a six month period, said the reason for the fall was “unclear”, but said it could possibly be linked to decreased alcohol consumption and greater public awareness.
The authors said serious health problems caused by alcohol continued to be “a significant burden of care” for the ICU - with its 23 patients at the time of the study costing the department up to €760,000.
Research, carried out by the hospital’s department of anaesthesia and intensive care medicine, examined alcohol-related admissions in 2013 and compared that to a previous audit in 2008.
It identified 23 people who were admitted for alcohol in 2013, compared to 33 people in 2008.
As a proportion of the total number of patients in the department, they represented 7% and 12% respectively.
It said 78% of patients were male and that the average age was 51.
Of the 23, seven were in for alcoholic cirrhosis, six were treated for medical conditions due to alcohol and five were in for trauma due to alcohol intoxification.
A further three were treated for alcoholic withdrawal symptoms, one was in for alcoholic hepatitis and one was treated for pancreatitis due to alcohol. Some five patients died.
The research, published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science, said a separate group of 12 patients were admitted electively post surgery for head and neck cancer where alcohol excess was a likely contributory factor.
The authors, Dr Caroline Larkin and Dr Carl Fagan, concluded that their audit demonstrated “a significant reduction” in alcohol-related admissions.
“The reasons behind the decrease in these admissions are as yet unclear,” they said. “However, there remains a significant burden of care from alcohol-related admissions, both indirect and direct in our ICUs.”
They noted that while some research suggested a reduction in drinking among adolescents, other studies, including one by the Health Research Board, found that just over half of drinkers had a drinking pattern that was classified as “harmful”.
The authors said it “may be possible” that the reduction in ICU admissions was a result of increased public awareness of the dangers of excessive drinking.
It said public health initiatives, such as the “drink aware” campaign funded by the alcohol industry, may have had a part to play.
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