Background: It has been reported that cocaine is associated with trauma patients at epidemic proportions. However, the injury patterns, complications, and mortality in cocaine test-positive trauma patients are not well known.
Methods: Retrospective review of all trauma patients with toxicology screen at a Level I trauma center between January 2002 and December 2005. A total of 1,096 patients were positive for cocaine but no other substances of abuse or alcohol. Nine hundred eighty-five patients of these cocaine test-positive patients were matched to a pool of 4,846 toxicology test-negative patients admitted during the same period with respect to age (≤18, 19–55, >55 years), gender, mechanism (blunt, penetrating), Injury Severity Score (ISS <16, 16–25, >25), head Abbreviated Injury Score (AIS <3, ≥3), chest AIS (<3, ≥3), abdominal AIS (<3, ≥3), and extremity AIS (<3, ≥3). Matched pairs of binary outcomes were analyzed using McNemars, and continuous data were tested using the Wilcoxon signed-ranks test.
Results: The two groups had similar injury patterns and there was no difference in surgical procedures between cocaine test-positive and toxicology test-negative patients. Overall, there was no difference in mortality between the cocaine and test-negative patients (6.5% vs. 6.2%; p = 0.81), or between cocaine and test-negative patients with an ISS <16 (1.4% vs. 1.5%; p = 1.00), ISS 16 to 25 (13% vs. 12%; p = 1.00), and ISS >25 (59% vs. 54%; p = 0.70). The overall incidence of complications was 4% in cocaine patients and 3.6% in test-negative patients (p = 0.72), although the incidence of pneumonia was significantly higher in the cocaine test-positive patients (p = 0.04).
Conclusion: Cocaine abuse in trauma patients is concerning. This study did not show a difference in mortality or length of intensive care unit stay between cocaine positive and negative patients. However, there was a significantly higher incidence of pneumonia in cocaine positive patients. Implementation of effective prevention strategies may help reduce cocaine related victims of trauma.