Alcohol-intoxication slows bodys efforts to restore normal blood pressure after small blood loss

Data collected by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and other federal and other agencies have shown that up to a fourth of all injuries treated in emergency departments are alcohol related. Its also widely recognized that, compared to sober patients seen in ERs and trauma centers, alcohol-intoxicated patients are more likely to have severe injuries and greater blood loss. Now, according to a presentation at the Experimental Biology 2002 meeting held in New Orleans April 24, theres even more bad news concerning intoxication and injury involving blood loss.

A research team headed by Dr. Patricia Molina and colleagues from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center found that laboratory rats given enough alcohol to mimic a binge-drinking episode undergo a greater drop in blood pressure following even a small blood loss than do rats not exposed to alcohol. The intoxicated rats also take longer to return to normal blood pressure after adequate fluid is returned to the body through the equivalent of an IV drip.

Both these findings have enormous implications for trauma patients and the physicians who treat them, says Dr. Molina. Delayed normalization of blood pressure prolongs the period of time tissues have inadequate oxygen supply, a particularly disastrous situation for heavy oxygen-using organs like the brain, liver and kidney. Abnormally low blood pressure and the bodys altered neural and hormonal signaling to restore normal blood pressure negatively impact trauma victims response to surgery, anesthesia and mechanical ventilation, including increasing the risk of infection.

The LSU study is the first to isolate and explain the mechanism through which alcohol intoxication causes these negative effects. When animals, rats or humans, lose even a relatively small amount of blood, the brain immediately attempts to restore blood pressure to pre-blood loss levels by activating neurons and releasing chemical mediators into

Contact: Sarah Goodwin
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

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