Updated: 10/16/2018

Alcohol Withdrawal

Topic
Review Topic
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Questions
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Evidence
2
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Snapshot
  • A 38-year-old man is brought to the emergency department after being in a motor vehicle accident. The patient fractured his femur and required surgery. On postoperative day 2, the patient reports trouble falling asleep, palpitations, and feeling anxious. Medical history is significant for hypertension and alcohol use disorder. His blood pressure is 165/98 mmHg, pulse is 105/min, and respirations are 20/min. Physical exam is significant for tremulousness and diaphoresis. He is started on lorazepam.
Introduction
  • Definition
    • progression of signs and symptoms that occur after withdrawal from heavy and prolonged use of alcohol
  • Epidemiology
    • incidence
      • typically seen in hospitalized patients who have alcohol dependence
  • Pathogenesis
    • prolonged use of alcohol downregulates GABA receptors and upregulates glutamate receptors in order to maintain arousal
    • when alcohol is abruptly withdrawn, there is overexcitation of glutamate receptors
  • Associated conditions
    • Wernicke encephalopathy
      • triad
        • ophthalmoplegia
        • encephalopathy
        • ataxia
      • thiamine and magnesium depletion results in necrosis of the mammillary bodies, thalamus, and hippocampus
    • Korsakoff syndrome
      • memory impairment and confabulations
      • precipitated if giving dextrose prior to giving thiamine
  • Prognosis
    • alcohol withdrawal seizures and delirium tremens are life-threatening
Presentation
  • Symptoms/physical exam
    • minor withdrawal
      • anxiety
      • agitation
      • restlessness
      • diaphoresis
      • palpitations
      • insomnia
    • moderate-to-severe withdrawal
      • hallucinations
      • seizures
      • delirium tremens
Studies
  • Labs
    • thiamine and magnesium deficiency
    • AST > ALT (2:1)
    • serum γ-glutamyltransferase (GGT)
      • a sensitive indicator of alcohol use
Withdrawal
 
Alcohol Withdrawal
Time (Hours)
Syndrome
Clinical Findings
6-36
  • Minor withdrawal
  • Anxiety
  • Tremulousness
  • Diaphoresis
  • Palpitations
6-48
  • Seizures
  • Tonic-clonic seizures
    • short post-ictal period
12-48
  • Alcoholic hallucinosis
  • Visual, auditory, and/or tactile hallucinations
    • intact orientation
    • normal vital signs
48-96
  • Delirium tremens
  • Delirium
  • Agitation
  • Tachycardia
  • Hypertension
  • Fever
  • Diaphoresis
 
Treatment
  • Medical
    • thiamine
      • indication
        • to prevent Wernicke encephalopathy
    • benzodiazepines
      • indications
        • the treatment of choice for alcohol withdrawal
      • comments
        • lorazepam and oxazepam are preferred in patients with liver disease
Complications
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Delirium tremens
  • Tonic-clonic seizures
 

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Questions (3)
Lab Values
Blood, Plasma, Serum Reference Range
ALT 8-20 U/L
Amylase, serum 25-125 U/L
AST 8-20 U/L
Bilirubin, serum (adult) Total // Direct 0.1-1.0 mg/dL // 0.0-0.3 mg/dL
Calcium, serum (Ca2+) 8.4-10.2 mg/dL
Cholesterol, serum Rec: < 200 mg/dL
Cortisol, serum 0800 h: 5-23 μg/dL //1600 h:
3-15 μg/dL
2000 h: ≤ 50% of 0800 h
Creatine kinase, serum Male: 25-90 U/L
Female: 10-70 U/L
Creatinine, serum 0.6-1.2 mg/dL
Electrolytes, serum  
Sodium (Na+) 136-145 mEq/L
Chloride (Cl-) 95-105 mEq/L
Potassium (K+) 3.5-5.0 mEq/L
Bicarbonate (HCO3-) 22-28 mEq/L
Magnesium (Mg2+) 1.5-2.0 mEq/L
Estriol, total, serum (in pregnancy)  
24-28 wks // 32-36 wks 30-170 ng/mL // 60-280 ng/mL
28-32 wk // 36-40 wks 40-220 ng/mL // 80-350 ng/mL
Ferritin, serum Male: 15-200 ng/mL
Female: 12-150 ng/mL
Follicle-stimulating hormone, serum/plasma Male: 4-25 mIU/mL
Female: premenopause: 4-30 mIU/mL
midcycle peak: 10-90 mIU/mL
postmenopause: 40-250
pH 7.35-7.45
PCO2 33-45 mmHg
PO2 75-105 mmHg
Glucose, serum Fasting: 70-110 mg/dL
2-h postprandial:<120 mg/dL
Growth hormone - arginine stimulation Fasting: <5 ng/mL
Provocative stimuli: > 7ng/mL
Immunoglobulins, serum  
IgA 76-390 mg/dL
IgE 0-380 IU/mL
IgG 650-1500 mg/dL
IgM 40-345 mg/dL
Iron 50-170 μg/dL
Lactate dehydrogenase, serum 45-90 U/L
Luteinizing hormone, serum/plasma Male: 6-23 mIU/mL
Female: follicular phase: 5-30 mIU/mL
midcycle: 75-150 mIU/mL
postmenopause 30-200 mIU/mL
Osmolality, serum 275-295 mOsmol/kd H2O
Parathyroid hormone, serume, N-terminal 230-630 pg/mL
Phosphatase (alkaline), serum (p-NPP at 30° C) 20-70 U/L
Phosphorus (inorganic), serum 3.0-4.5 mg/dL
Prolactin, serum (hPRL) < 20 ng/mL
Proteins, serum  
Total (recumbent) 6.0-7.8 g/dL
Albumin 3.5-5.5 g/dL
Globulin 2.3-3.5 g/dL
Thyroid-stimulating hormone, serum or plasma .5-5.0 μU/mL
Thyroidal iodine (123I) uptake 8%-30% of administered dose/24h
Thyroxine (T4), serum 5-12 μg/dL
Triglycerides, serum 35-160 mg/dL
Triiodothyronine (T3), serum (RIA) 115-190 ng/dL
Triiodothyronine (T3) resin uptake 25%-35%
Urea nitrogen, serum 7-18 mg/dL
Uric acid, serum 3.0-8.2 mg/dL
Hematologic Reference Range
Bleeding time 2-7 minutes
Erythrocyte count Male: 4.3-5.9 million/mm3
Female: 3.5-5.5 million mm3
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (Westergren) Male: 0-15 mm/h
Female: 0-20 mm/h
Hematocrit Male: 41%-53%
Female: 36%-46%
Hemoglobin A1c ≤ 6 %
Hemoglobin, blood Male: 13.5-17.5 g/dL
Female: 12.0-16.0 g/dL
Hemoglobin, plasma 1-4 mg/dL
Leukocyte count and differential  
Leukocyte count 4,500-11,000/mm3
Segmented neutrophils 54%-62%
Bands 3%-5%
Eosinophils 1%-3%
Basophils 0%-0.75%
Lymphocytes 25%-33%
Monocytes 3%-7%
Mean corpuscular hemoglobin 25.4-34.6 pg/cell
Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration 31%-36% Hb/cell
Mean corpuscular volume 80-100 μm3
Partial thromboplastin time (activated) 25-40 seconds
Platelet count 150,000-400,000/mm3
Prothrombin time 11-15 seconds
Reticulocyte count 0.5%-1.5% of red cells
Thrombin time < 2 seconds deviation from control
Volume  
Plasma Male: 25-43 mL/kg
Female: 28-45 mL/kg
Red cell Male: 20-36 mL/kg
Female: 19-31 mL/kg
Cerebrospinal Fluid Reference Range
Cell count 0-5/mm3
Chloride 118-132 mEq/L
Gamma globulin 3%-12% total proteins
Glucose 40-70 mg/dL
Pressure 70-180 mm H2O
Proteins, total < 40 mg/dL
Sweat Reference Range
Chloride 0-35 mmol/L
Urine  
Calcium 100-300 mg/24 h
Chloride Varies with intake
Creatinine clearance Male: 97-137 mL/min
Female: 88-128 mL/min
Estriol, total (in pregnancy)  
30 wks 6-18 mg/24 h
35 wks 9-28 mg/24 h
40 wks 13-42 mg/24 h
17-Hydroxycorticosteroids Male: 3.0-10.0 mg/24 h
Female: 2.0-8.0 mg/24 h
17-Ketosteroids, total Male: 8-20 mg/24 h
Female: 6-15 mg/24 h
Osmolality 50-1400 mOsmol/kg H2O
Oxalate 8-40 μg/mL
Potassium Varies with diet
Proteins, total < 150 mg/24 h
Sodium Varies with diet
Uric acid Varies with diet
Body Mass Index (BMI) Adult: 19-25 kg/m2
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(M1.PY.4725) A 59-year-old man presents to the emergency room with shortness of breath and swelling of his feet and legs. He denies any past medical problems, surgeries, medications, or illicit drug use. He reports drinking a few beers each night. He is diagnosed with a first episode of congestive heart failure and is admitted to the hospital. The next day, the nurse notices that his hands are shaky when he extends his arms. The patient says that he couldn’t sleep the night before and that he feels restless, anxious, and slightly nauseated. On the second night of admission the patient becomes agitated. He is disoriented, cannot remember where he is, and appears globally confused. His pulse is 125/min, blood pressure is 170/110 mmHg, and temperature is 101.7°F (38.7°C). He is diaphoretic and his hands are shaking at rest. He cries out in fear reporting voices whispering in his room and strange shadows passing over the walls. What medication should be administered to this patient?
Review Topic

QID: 108571
1

Flumazenil

7%

(14/215)

2

Naloxone

9%

(20/215)

3

Benzodiazepines

73%

(157/215)

4

Dantrolene

2%

(5/215)

5

Fomepizole

6%

(13/215)

M1

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