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Alcohol Withdrawal Assessment and Treatment


Ask patients about current and past alcohol use. Family history of alcohol abuse? ... Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol Scale (CIWA-A) ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Alcohol Withdrawal Assessment and Treatment

Alcohol WithdrawalAssessment and Treatment
  • Stacy Campbell-Bright, Pharm.D, BCPS
  • Clinical Specialist, Medicine ICU
  • July 22, 2008

Alcohol Abuse Incidence Complications
  • 20 of patients in hospitals meet diagnostic
    criteria for alcohol dependence
  • 50-60 of pts admitted with trauma are alcoholic
  • Alcoholic pts in an ICU have 50 mortality rate
    compared with 26 in non-alcoholic pts
  • AWS is often mild doesnt require treatment
  • 20 of patients will show signs of withdrawal
  • 10 develop seizures
  • 5 of pts will develop Delirium tremens
  • Mortality 2-10

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome Complications
  • Morbidity Mortality associated with AWS are
    increased by a delay in recognition treatment
  • Presence of concurrent medical or surgical
    problems such as pneumonia, cardiac disease,
    pancreatitis, and trauma are associated with
    increased risk of developing major withdrawal

Screening Approaches in Medical Settings
  • Ask patients about current and past alcohol use
  • Family history of alcohol abuse?
  • History of type of alcohol ingested,
    quantity,frequency, duration, prior withdrawal
  • History of other drug use
  • When was last drink?

Determine if Patient is Alcohol Dependent
  • Daily drinking
  • Drinking early in the day
  • Rating priority of alcohol in patients life
  • Previous medical interventions required in
    relation to drinking
  • Establish if problems have arisen in relation to
  • Social, domestic, emotional occupational,

Screening Pts at high risk for Alcohol Withdrawal
  • CAGE Questionnaire
  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the
    morning to steady your nerves (eye-opener)?

  • Physical Exam
  • Signs of intoxication
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Sequelae of chronic alcohol use
  • Signs of liver disease
  • Wernickes encephalopathy ( ataxia, amnesia,

  • Laboratory
  • Blood alcohol concentration
  • Urine drug screen
  • Electrolyes
  • CBC
  • LFTs, coags albumin
  • In alcohol dependence can see
  • ?GGT, ?MCV
  • Folate B12 deficiency
  • ?homocysteine

  • Alcohol interferes with two neurotransmitters
  • Agonizes gamma-aminobutyric acid A
  • (GABA A)
  • Antagonizes N-methyl-D-asparate ( NMDA)
  • Abstinence enhanced NMDA receptor function and
    reduced GABA transmission dysregulation of
    dopaminergic system

Diagnosis of Alcohol Withdrawal(DSM-IV)
  • Patient has decreased or stopped his/her heavy,
    prolonged ingestion of alcohol
  • AND
  • Has at least two symptoms of withdrawal which
    must cause clinically significant distress or
    impairment, and not be caused by other disorders

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms (DSM-IV)
  • Autonomic hyperactivity (sweating, pulse gt100)
  • Increased hand tremor
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Transient visual, tactile or auditory
    hallucinations or illusions
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Grand- mal seizures

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
Goals of Treatment
  • Safely reduce severity of withdrawal symptoms
  • Prevent seizures and delirium
  • Facilitate the transition to alcohol treatment
    and rehabilitation
  • Prevent complications

  • Supportive Care
  • General nursing care in a quiet, well-lit room,
    reassurance and reorientation
  • Frequent monitoring of vital signs
  • Nutrition and electrolyte replacement as needed

  • Benzodiazepines

  • Act on GABA-A receptors, similarly to ETOH
  • Low potential for physical dependence and
    tolerance with short courses
  • Cross tolerant with ethanol
  • Minimal side effects
  • Wide safety margin

Efficacy of Benzodiazepines
  • Six prospective trials, BZDs vs placebo
  • Reduce the incidence of seizures
  • Risk reduction of 7.7/100 patients
  • CI -12.0 to -3.5
  • Reduce the incidence of delirium
  • Risk reduction of 4.9/100 (p0.04)
  • CI -9.0 to -0.7

Long-Acting Benzodiazepines
  • Long half-life agents(gt30h)
  • Chlordiazepoxide and Diazepam
  • Overall smoother withdrawal course
  • Less breakthrough or rebound symptoms
  • Undergo oxidative metabolism
  • Metabolites with long half-lives
  • Increased sedation in liver dz and elderly

Intermediate Acting Benzodiazepines
  • Intermediate half-life agents(10-20h)
  • Lorazepam and Oxazepam
  • No active metabolites
  • Preferred in liver dz and the elderly
  • Cyclical variations
  • Frequent dosing required

  • Fixed Schedule
  • Scheduled PRN
  • Taper once symptom controlled
  • Symptom Triggered
  • Medication given every 1-2 hours in the presence
    of symptoms(CIWA-A OR CIWA-Ar)

  • Withdrawal severity assessment scales
  • Objectively quantify severity of withdrawal
  • Well documented reliability, reproducibility
    validity based on comparisons with ratings by
    experienced clinicians
  • High scores associated with seizures delirium
  • Used in detox units, psych wards, general medical
    surgical wards

Structured Assessment Forms used in
Symptom-Triggered Therapy
  • Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for
    Alcohol Scale (CIWA-A)
  • Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for
    Alcohol, revised (CIWA-Ar)
  • CIWA-A, modified (Foy,

Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for
Alcohol ( CIWA-Ar) Scale
  • 10 item scale
  • Clinician gives score for each response (0-7)
  • Overall score indicates severity of withdrawal
    and treatment and follow-up required
  • Validated, high inter- rater reliability

CIWA-Ar Scale
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Tremor
  • Paroxysmal sweats
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Tactile disturbances
  • Auditory disturbances
  • Visual disturbances
  • Headache, fullness in head
  • Disorientation

CIWA-A, modified
  • In addition to objectives characterized by
    CIWA-Ar, the modified CIWA also includes
  • Temperature
  • Pulse
  • RR
  • Diastolic BP
  • This is the assessment tool used at UNC first
    validated in medically-ill patients

Symptom Triggered Approach to Treatment of
Alcohol Withdrawal
  • As effective as fixed dose regimens
  • Allows earlier identification of patients at risk
    for AWS earlier administration of medication
  • Allows objective titration of doses to individual
  • Leads to more rapid detoxification
  • Reduction in total benzodiazepine dose
  • Decreased incidence of over sedation

Disadvantages of Structured Assessment Forms
  • Requires screening to identify appropriate
    patients for use
  • Requires trained staff
  • Low scores may give false confidence
  • High scores may be related to other disorders
  • Difficult to use in non-communicative or
    mechanically-ventilated patients

Alcohol Withdrawal Pharmacotherapy for Inpatients
with Medical Comorbidity
  • Designed to determine if there was a difference
    between symptom-triggered (ST) and fixed-schedule
    (FS) dosing of lorazepam in patients hospitalized
    on general medical wards at a University Medical

Alcohol Withdrawal Pharmacotherapy for Inpatients
with Medical Comorbidity
  • Inclusion 21-75yo, daily ETOH intake for 7 days
    or greater, with last use no more than 72 hours
    prior to enrollment. Patients on GIM service
  • Exclusion unable to give informed consent,
    chronic sedative-hypnotic use
  • Most common comorbid diagnosis were pancreatitis,
    pneumonia, gastrointestinal bleeding, cellulitis
    and chest pain
  • Used CIWA-Ar
  • Used in conjunction with sedation scale

Alcohol Withdrawal Pharmacotherapy for Inpatients
with Medical Comorbidity
  • CIWA-Ar
  • lt 5 minimal withdrawal
  • 6-19 mild withdrawal
  • gt 30 severe withdrawal
  • Assessments q4h for a minimum of 48h
  • Then if CIWA-Ar lt6 for 6 consecutive
    assessments(24h), assessments stopped

ST Protocol
Scores gt30 Assess q1hr and give drug until
score lt30 for 2 consecutive assessments Then
return to q4h assessments
Fixed Dose Protocol
  • Lorazepam 2mg IV/PO q4h x48hrs then 1mg IV/PO
    q4hr x 24hrs then 0.5mg IV/PO q4h for 6 doses
    then discontinue
  • If CIWA-Ar score gt30, additional lorazepam q1hr
    until score lt30 x2 assessments
  • If gt6mg additional lorazepam required, then total
    dose over previous 24hrs divided q4hr and tapered
    by 20 over 5days
  • Doses held for sedation

Alcohol Withdrawal Pharmacotherapy for Inpatients
with Medical Comorbidity
  • 209 patients eligible for enrollment
  • 183 patients enrolled( 91 ST 92 FS)
  • No difference in groups based on age, sex, race,
    drinking history or CIWA-Ar score on Day1
  • 81 male, 19 female
  • Median length of stay 3 days
  • Median drinks per day 7.3 (ST) 9 (FS)
  • Years of drinking 23.6(ST) vs. 24.4(FS)
  • Mean average CIWA-Ar 4.5(ST) vs 4(FS)

Average Total Lorazepam by Protocol and CIWA-Ar
  • No statistically significant difference in change
    of CIWA-Ar scores for first 2 days between FS and
    ST groups
  • ST group received half the amount of lorazepam
    compared to FS group for similar CIWA-Ar scores
  • No difference in length of stay
  • ST group had greater than 2 times the incidence
    of protocol errors
  • No serious adverse effects in either group(
    seizures or respiratory depression)

  • ST resulted in similar withdrawal relief relative
    to FS with less lorazepam required
  • ST allows more flexibility in dosing with
    fluctuations in CIWA-Ar score and level of
    sedation, so less medication can be given if
    withdrawal signs resolve rapidly
  • Ability to give lower doses of benzodiazepines in
    the ST group may lead to less side effects such
    as over sedation, paradoxical agitation,
    delirium, respiratory depression

Alcohol Withdrawal DeliriumDSM-IV Criteria
  • Disturbance of consciousness( reduced clarity of
    awareness of environment) with reduced ability to
    focus, sustain or shift attention
  • A change in cognition ( such as memory deficit,
    disorientation, or language disturbance) or
    development of a perceptual disturbance that is
    not better accounted for by a preexisting,
    established or evolving dementia

Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium- DSM IV Criteria
  • C. The symptoms develop in a short period (
    usually hours to days) and tends to fluctuate
    during the day
  • D. There is evidence from the history , PE or
    laboratory findings that the symptoms in criteria
    A and B developed during or shortly after a
    withdrawal syndrome

Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium
  • This diagnosis is made only when the cognitive
    symptoms are in excess of those usually
    associated with the withdrawal syndrome and when
    the symptoms are sufficiently severe to warrant
    independent clinical attention

Delirium Tremens
  • Mortality up to 15
  • Symptoms delayed 48 hrs after last drink
  • Symptoms peak after 4 days
  • May last two weeks in severe cases
  • Sedative-hypnotics are the treatment of choice in
    fixed dosed method
  • Parenteral administration preferred

Prediction of Withdrawal Severity
  • Type of alcohol, quantity ,frequency and drinking
  • Past withdrawal seizure
  • Past delirium
  • Number of previous detoxification's
  • Medical comorbidity
  • Other addictions
  • Advanced age

Adjunctive Agents
  • Thiamine
  • 100mg IV or IM prior to dextrose then daily x2
  • Prevents Wernickes encephalopathy
  • Multivitamins and Folate
  • Prevents alcohol related deficiencies
  • Magnesium
  • Patients often deficient
  • Requires replacement over 3-5 days
  • Usual doses 0.5meq/kg/day ( IBW)
  • Add to IVF to minimize urinary losses

Adjunctive Agents
  • Haloperidol
  • May be useful in combination with benzodiazepines
    for agitation and hallucinations
  • 0.5-5mg po q4h or IV q30 minutes
  • Decrease seizure threshold when used alone so use
    in combination with benzodiazepine
  • Monitor QT interval minimize use if QT gt450

Adjunctive Agents
  • Beta Blockers and Clonidine
  • Decrease autonomic symptoms
  • No effect on decreasing seizures
  • No effect on delirium ( propranolol has been
    associated with increased delirium)
  • Use in combination with benzodiazepines
  • Beta blockers may be useful in patients with
    ischemic heart disease
  • Clonidine may be helpful in opioid addiction

CPOE Order Entry for CIWA
  • CIWA Score lt10
  • Assessments q4h x24h. If CIWA lt10 on 3
    consecutive assessments advance to q6h
  • CIWA 10-14
  • Assess q2h. After 24h if CIWA lt10 on 3
    consecutive assessments advance to q4h
  • CIWA gt14
  • Assess q2h and administer diazepam or lorazepam
    per MD order
  • Assess for 72hr or until detoxification complete

CPOE Order Entry for CIWA
  • If CIWA gt14 eligible for medication
  • Choose diazepam OR lorazepam
  • Choose IV OR PO administration
  • Patients initially receive doses q2hr as long as
    CIWA gt10 AND RASS gt-2
  • Maximum of 6 doses of either medication and then
  • If symptoms still consistent with AWS frequency
    of drug administration is increased to q1hr for
    maximum of 6 more doses .
  • Doses are held if CIWA lt10 or RASS lt-2

CPOE CIWA Order Entry
  • CIWA should be discontinued after patient
    receives 12 doses of either lorazepam or
  • If symptoms are still consistent with AWS then
    patients should be placed on a fixed schedule
    taper of lorazepam or diazepam
  • Once symptoms controlled taper dose by 20-25 per

Monitoring CIWA
  • CIWA scores are documented by nursing in E-Chart
  • Doses of medication, sedation score and CIWA
    scores are also documented on MAR

  • Screen and identify patients early
  • Benzodiazepines are drug of choice for treating
    AWS DTs
  • All efficacious
  • Diazepam and chlordiazepoxide may be preferred
  • Substitute lorazepam in elderly pts with liver

  • Symptom-triggered protocols are preferred in
    patients at risk for alcohol withdrawal who are
    identified before severe withdrawal symptoms have
    developed and if trained staff are available
  • At UNC patients with CIWA scores lt10 may be
    admitted to floor with q4h assessments
  • Floor patients whose CIWA scores become gt10 may
    be treated with PRN or fixed doses of
    benzodiazepines if symptoms remain mild to

  • Patients with severe withdrawal or DTs should be
    transferred to the MPCU or ICU
  • Fixed dose regimens are recommended for patients
    already in severe withdrawal or in
    non-communicative or mechanically ventilated

  • All patients being treated for alcohol withdrawal
    or DTs should have sedation assessed prior to
    receiving sedative-hypnotics, and doses should be
    held for excessive sedation

Richmond Agitation Sedation Scale (RASS)
4 Combative Overtly combative, violent,
immediate danger to staff 3 Very agitated Pulls
or removes tube(s) or catheter(s) aggressive 2
Agitated Frequent non-purposeful movement, fights
ventilator 1 Restless Anxious but movements not
aggressive vigorous 0 Alert and calm -1 Drowsy
Not fully alert, but has sustained
awakening (eye-opening/eye contact) to voice (gt10
seconds) -2 Light sedation Briefly awakens with
eye contact to voice (lt10 seconds) -3 Moderate
sedation Movement or eye opening to voice (but no
eye contact) -4 Deep sedation No response to
voice, but movement or eye opening to physical
stimulation -5 Unarousable No response to voice
or physical stimulation