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Original article

Vol. 153 No. 4 (2023)

Gender-specific differences in comorbidities, in-hospital complications and outcomes in emergency patients with ethanol intoxication with and without multisubstance use

  • Eric Schwegler
  • Marta Bachmann
  • Frank Kube
  • Urs Eriksson
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2023;153:40061


AIMS OF THE STUDY: To analyse gender-specific differences in comorbidities, multisubstance abuse, in-hospital complications, intensive care unit transfers and referrals to psychiatric wards of emergency department patients with ethanol intoxication. Several lines of evidence suggest an influence of gender differences on diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to various diseases.

METHODS: Over a period of 7 years, all patients with signs or symptoms of ethanol intoxication and a positive blood ethanol test admitted for the first time to the emergency department of a Swiss regional tertiary referral hospital were prospectively enrolled. Patients were categorised into two subgroups: patients without additional drug use were considered ethanol-only cases, whereas patients who had also ingested other substances (as determined from bystanders, physicians and urine drug screening) were considered multisubstance cases. A retrospective analysis of this database evaluated gender-specific differences in comorbidities, multisubstance abuse, in-hospital complications, intensive care unit transfers and referrals to psychiatric wards within these two subgroups. Statistical analysis included Fisher’s exact test for categorical data and Wilcoxon rank sum test for continuous data.

RESULTS: Of 409 enrolled patients, 236 cases were ethanol-only and 173 were multisubstance cases. The three most common comorbidities in multisubstance patients showed significant gender differences: psychiatric disorders (43% males vs 61% females; p = 0.022), chronic ethanol abuse (55% males vs 32% females; p = 0.002) and drug addiction (44% males vs 17% females; p = 0.001). Gender differences were also found for the most frequently co-ingested substances: benzodiazepines (35% males vs 43% females; p = 0.014), cannabis (45% males vs 24% females; p = 0.006) and cocaine (24% males vs 6% females; p = 0.001).

Male and female ethanol-only patients were transferred to the intensive care unit in 8% of cases. In multisubstance cases, 32% of male and 43% of female patients were transferred to the intensive care unit (no significant gender difference). The psychiatric ward referral rate in male (30%) and female (48%) patients with multisubstance abuse was significantly different (p = 0.028). No significant gender difference in psychiatric ward referral rates was observed for ethanol-only patients (12% males, 17% females).

CONCLUSION: Among emergency department patients admitted with ethanol intoxication, gender differences in comorbidities, substance use and psychiatric ward referrals were highly significant among patients who presented with multisubstance abuse. Rates of intensive care unit transfer for patients with ethanol intoxication are substantial for both genders, reflecting relevant disease burden and resource demand, as well as the need for further preventive efforts.


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