Using routine emergency department data for syndromic surveillance of acute alcohol intoxication
a methodological approach in developing syndrome definitions to detect alcohol-related emergency department visits
Background: The prevalence and intensity of alcohol use varies among subgroups in the population and changes over time. Routine emergency department data provide a potential for monitoring mental health use cases to gather information on frequencies and distri-butions of specified health events in real time. For this purpose, the development of syndrome definitions for the continuous recording and detection of acute changes in alcohol-related visits and acute alcohol intoxications was explored. Methods: Routinely collected data from 18 emergency departments in Germany were analysed. Syndrome definitions were developed by combining chief complaints and diagnoses to portray alcohol-related health events presenting to the emergency department. Identified cases were described by characteristics of their distributions and compared to another data source of inpatient health care. Further, cases were presented over time and by separate time period before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Results: From a total of 2,123,492 emergency department attandances, 18,270 cases (0.86%) were identified as alcohol-related visits and 14,141 (0.67%) as acute alcohol intoxica-tions for the observation period between 1 January 2018 to 2 May 2021. Among all acute alcohol intoxications, 71.8% were male and most cases presented in the age category of 45-54 years (20.0%). The syndrome definition continuously recorded cases and displayed acute changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as trends in patient characteristics of identified acute alcohol intoxications. Conclusion: The potential and proof of principle for syndromic surveillance of alcohol-related visits, especially acute alcohol intoxications, using emergency department data was demon-strated. The syndrome definition to identify acute alcohol intoxications can be applied for various surveillance purposes. This systematic data collection provides a first foun-dation for timley information on patterns and changes of alcohol consumption to sup-port prevention and intervention efforts in reducing alcohol-related harm.
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