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Phenobarbital for the Management of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome in Critically Ill, Surgical-Trauma Patients

Published:December 09, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jss.2022.11.029

      Abstract

      Introduction

      While benzodiazepines (BZD) are the standard of care therapy for the management alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS), phenobarbital (PHB) is often used as an alternative agent. The objective of this study is to assess the use of PHB therapy for the management of AWS in trauma-surgical intensive care unit (TSCU) patients.

      Materials and methods

      This is an institutional review board–approved single-center, retrospective study conducted at a large academic medical center. Patients aged ≥ 18 y admitted to the TSCU receiving PHB therapy for primary management of AWS were included. The primary outcome evaluated was the incidence of AWS-related complications (AWSRC) defined as severe agitation, delirium tremens, or seizures following initiation of PHB. Secondary outcomes included the incidence of oversedation and duration of mechanical ventilation.

      Results

      Sixty patients were included in this study. AWSRC following initiation of PHB occurred in 65% of patients. Median time to initiation of PHB (42 versus 18 h, P = 0.001) and rates of oversedation (79.5% versus 28.6%, P < 0.001) were significantly greater among patients who experienced AWSRC compared to those who did not. Univariate analysis revealed use of BZD therapy for ≥ 24 h prior to PHB initiation, time from hospital admission to PHB initiation ≥ 24 h, presence of AWS symptoms at baseline, and baseline MINDS score > 6 were risk factors for AWSRC.

      Conclusions

      Delays in initiation of PHB appear to be associated with an increased risk for developing AWSRC. Further research is needed to identify an optimal dosing strategy for TSCU patients at high risk for severe AWS.

      Keywords

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