To describe the presentations, characteristics, and follow-up care of children and adolescents aged 10 to 18 years who present to emergency departments (EDs) with acute alcohol intoxication/self-poisoning.
Retrospective medical record review.
Five EDs in Western Sydney, Australia.
Patients aged 10 to 18 years who presented to EDs with acute alcohol intoxication/self-poisoning between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 2000.
Main Outcome Measures
Frequency of presentations; presentation characteristics; psychosocial characteristics; and presence or absence of follow-up.
Two hundred twelve children and adolescents presented to EDs 216 times. Of the 212 patients, 49 (23%) were 14 years or younger, and the youngest was aged 10 years. The majority (82%) came after hours and were brought in by emergency services (77%). In 13% of presentations, verbal and/or physical aggression was present, and a threat of self-harm was present in 2% of cases. A mental health worker was consulted about the child or adolescent in only 6% of presentations. Most children and adolescents (85%) were discharged from the ED. Of concern, in 56% of presentations, a follow-up plan was not recorded. There was documentation of mental health follow-up in only 14% of presentations and follow-up from drug and alcohol services in only 1%. Forensic history, school functioning, and a history of past mental health problems were not documented in more than 60% of the medical records examined.
When children or adolescents present to an ED with acute alcohol intoxication/self-poisoning, their risk factors for psychosocial dysfunction appear to be inadequately assessed, documented, and followed up. Clear guidelines for assessment and referral pathways must be established in EDs.