CLINICAL QUERIES: How do I care for a patient with alcohol withdrawal syndrome?
Carin Schofield RN, ACNP, MSN

August 2004 
Volume 34  Number 8
Pages 25 - 25
  PDF Version Available!



    During his admission health history, my patient stated that he drinks 8 ounces of whiskey daily. What should I expect over the next few days of his hospitalization? —J.R., MASS.

    Carin Schofield, RN, ACNP, MSN, replies: An estimated 15% to 30% of hospitalized patients have problems with alcohol abuse or dependence and may experience alcohol withdrawal. Within 12 hours of his last drink, your patient may experience minor withdrawal symptoms, such as mild anxiety, tremor, and palpitations.

    If his alcohol abuse is chronic, he's older, or he has abnormal liver function, he also may experience a more severe, life-threatening withdrawal reaction called alcohol withdrawal delirium or delirium tremens. This condition usually occurs 48 to 72 hours after the last drink, and is characterized by mental confusion, agitation, visual hallucinations, diaphoresis, and cardiovascular abnormalities.

    Ask your patient ...

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