Risk Factors for Delirium Tremens in Trauma Patients

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Background The development of delirium tremens (DT) is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. This study identifies characteristics in trauma patients that are predictive of DT.Methods Data from 1,856 trauma patients who either developed DT (n = 105) or had a positive blood alcohol concentration but did not develop DT (n = 1,751) were collected from the trauma registry of a Level I trauma center. Odds ratios were used to measure the association between predictors and DT as an outcome and between DT and length of stay as an outcome.Results Of seven significant (p < 0.05) predictors of DT, four were retained after stepwise logistic regression: age >40, white race, burn as a mechanism of injury and, as a negative predictor, motor vehicle collision as a mechanism of injury. The DT group stayed an average of 6.5 and 5.2 days longer in the hospital and the intensive care unit, respectively, than those in the control group.Conclusion It is possible to determine which intoxicated trauma patients are at increased risk for DT using the above predictors. Patients who develop DT have worse outcomes than those who do not. Whether routine DT prophylaxis would improve outcomes among those at increased risk for DT is unknown, but deserves further study.

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