Objective: To quantify the extent that alcohol related injuries are adequately identified in hospitalisation data using ICD-10-AM codes indicative of alcohol involvement.
Method: A random sample of 4,373 injury-related hospital separations from 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2004 were obtained from a stratified random sample of 50 hospitals across four states in Australia. From this sample, cases were identified as involving alcohol if they contained an ICD-10-AM diagnosis or external cause code referring to alcohol, or if the text description extracted from the medical records mentioned alcohol involvement.
Results: Overall, identification of alcohol involvement using ICD codes detected 38% of the alcohol-related sample, while almost 94% of alcohol-related cases were identified through a search of the text extracted from the medical records. The resultant estimate of alcohol involvement in injury-related hospitalisations in this sample was 10%. Emergency department records were the most likely to identify whether the injury was alcohol-related with almost three-quarters of alcohol-related cases mentioning alcohol in the text abstracted from these records.
Conclusions and Implications: The current best estimates of the frequency of hospital admissions where alcohol is involved prior to the injury underestimate the burden by around 62%. This is a substantial underestimate that has major implications for public policy, and highlights the need for further work on improving the quality and completeness of routine administrative data sources for identification of alcohol-related injuries.