Drunk drivers have been known to walk away from auto wrecksâ€”but thatâ€™s unusual. In fact, the norm is this: those who drink before an accident of any kind, particularly a motor vehicle accident, have a much higher chance of being injured or dying than if they hadnâ€™t been drinking at all.
So, Jana MacLeod, MD, and her colleagues trained surgical interns to conductÂ brief interventions on patients with alcohol-related injuries. MacLeod is an associate professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine. She says brief interventions offer patients a way to talk about their alcohol use with their physician, and then make behavioral changes if they so choose.
MacLeod talks about the benefits of these interventions in an Emory Sound Science podcast.
â€œRecent studies have shown brief alcohol interventions with trauma patients who have a history of alcohol misuse successfully prevented future episodes of drunk driving,â€ says MacLeod. Whatâ€™s more, itâ€™s been shown a five-minute intervention reduces hazardous drinking patterns up to three years after injury and decreases recidivism.
Although 30 to 50 percent of patients who are admitted to trauma centers have misused alcohol preceding their injury, these patients are not necessarily alcoholics, rather they may have a history of alcohol misuse.
â€œAs a trauma surgeon, it behooves me to try to do something to impact this, to change this, because it is such a huge risk factor for severity of injury and recurrent injury,â€ says MacLeod.
â€œIf surgeons knew how to perform brief interventions, they could help prevent future injuries and death,â€ says MacLeod. â€œIn addition, they would better understand why this preventive service should become a routine element of trauma care. And later in their careers they might be more likely to facilitate or implement brief interventions in their trauma centers when they are in positions ofÂ leadership.â€
Says MacLeod, the training allows surgical interns to learn a valuable technique to connect with patients and make a contribution other than just putting a broken bone back together or sewing up an injury.