The implications of alcohol and drug related burns in a tertiary burns centre

Dr Peter Meier1, Dr Helen Douglas1, Dr  Jeremy Rawlins1

1State Burns Service WA, Perth, Australia

Introduction: In Australia it is estimated that alcohol accounts for 3.3% of total disease burden, costing 15.3 billion dollars per year, with illicit drug use adding a further 1.8 billion dollars. The national health survey 2014-15 revealed 17.4% of Australians consumed more than recommended safe daily levels of alcohol, and an estimated 2.9 million Australians aged 14 and over had tried illicit drugs in the preceding 12 months. The aim of this study was to assess the incidence and financial cost of alcohol and drug related admissions in the Western Australian Burns Service.

Methods: Data was retrospectively collected on 123 consecutive patients who had reported consuming alcohol and drugs prior to sustaining burns between 2015 and 2017 from the State Burns Service of Western Australia (WA) using the electronic case note database.

Results: Of the 123 patients who reported sustaining burns after consuming alcohol and or drugs; the mean TBSA injury was 5.2% and mean length of admission 5.8 days. Nine patients reported drug use only, 12 reported drug and alcohol use and 102 reported alcohol only. The average cost of each admission was $13,094 and the total theatre costs for this patient cohort totalled $4,085, 826.

Discussion: Alcohol and drug related burns constitute a significant morbidity and financial burden to the public health system in Western Australia. Despite focus shifting more recently to the impact of methamphetamine use, alcohol remains the most frequently abused substance precipitating burn injury.

Peter Meier is a registrar in burns and plastic surgery in WA

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