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The course of alcohol withdrawal in a general hospital

Green, J. and Currie, Craig 1997. The course of alcohol withdrawal in a general hospital. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine 90 (8) , p. 552. 10.1093/qjmed/90.8.552

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We conducted an observational study of 539 episodes of alcohol withdrawal in a general hospital, to determine the natural history, the incidences of seizures, hallucinations and delirium, and the risk factors for these events. The reaction began soon after arrival, at a median time of 5 h, and resolved at a median time of 22 h. Patients with a blood alcohol level of zero were in withdrawal on arrival, and only four patients had reactions lasting 120 h or longer. Complications were observed in 113 patients (21%) during the admission. Seizures occurred on arrival, hallucinations usually in the first 24 h and delirium in the first 48 h. No mortality was associated with alcohol withdrawal itself, but complications did extend length of stay by a median of 4 days, with delirium contributing most to the increase. Patients over 70 years of age or admitted with seizures had an increased risk of complication, but the greatest risk was associated with a delay in assessment of > 24 h. We conclude that in general hospitals, the alcohol withdrawal reaction becomes established very early, and detection and monitoring of patients within the first 24 h is the most important element in management.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 1460-2393
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 06:37

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