Acute Alcohol Intoxication Characteristics in Children

Aims: To describe clinical, mental and physical signs in children with different severity acute alcohol intoxication (AAI) determined either by serum alcohol concentration (SAC) or by blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to study the diagnostic performance characteristics of clinical assessment and to establish the ratio of SAC:BAC in children. Methods: Data were analysed from 256 children aged 8.4–17.9 years who were hospitalized at Estonia's two children's hospitals over a 3-year period. In each case, the on-call paediatrician completed a special form about the clinical, mental (consciousness, balance and speech) and physical (muscle tone, blood pressure, pulse and body temperature) signs of AAI. Blood samples were drawn for measurements of SAC and BAC. Diagnostic performance characteristics (sensitivity, specificity, efficiency) of the clinical assessments and the SAC:BAC ratio were calculated. Results: The most correctly described signs in children in different SAC groups were consciousness (rs = 0.16) and speech (rs = 0.13) (P < 0.0001). The severity of alteration of consciousness and degrees of disturbance in balance and speech were positively correlated with SAC (P < 0.001). The clinical judgment matched better with AAI determined by SAC rather than by BAC with the mean efficiency. The mean ratio between SAC and BAC was 1.19 ± 0.13 (P < 0.001) in children. Conclusion: The level of consciousness is the leading sign in the clinical evaluation of children with AAI and correlates well with SAC. The severity of AAI judged by clinical assessment matched better with AAI severity stages determined by SAC than by BAC. For legal cases where BAC is required, the SAC:BAC ratio of 1.19:1 should be used in children regardless of their gender or age.