A dose of alcohol may be a good treatment for people with head injuries, emergency doctors suggest.
Their basis for this is the discovery that people appear less likely to die following brain trauma if they have alcohol in their bloodstream.
It could be that alcohol dampens the body’s inflammatory response to injury, the US team told Archives of Surgery.
But they stressed that alcohol can cause medical complications and is contributory to many accidents.
Experts cautioned people should not interpret the findings as an excuse to drink more alcohol.
The amount of alcohol consumed appears to be important – too little and there is no effect, too much and the beneficial effects are lost, studies on animals suggest.
Experts believe the right dose of alcohol, however, stops the cascade of swelling, inflammation and further destruction of brain cells, known as secondary brain injury.
The latest work, based on more than 38,000 moderate-to-severe head trauma patients, is the largest yet to look at the effects of alcohol on brain injury survival.
However, if you don’t drink and drive, you can simply avoid most brain injuries.