Intravenous Ethanol for Alcohol Detoxification in Trauma Patients

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Traumatic injury frequently follows alcohol abuse. Between October 1, 1988 and January 31, 1992, 2,219 patients were admitted to the Trauma Service at the University Medical Center of Eastern Carolina-Pitt County. Of the 1,602 who were tested for serum ethanol, 685 (43%) were found to have measurable levels. Thirty-seven patients had alcohol withdrawal and were treated with intravenous ethanol; 34 were male (21 black, 13 white) and 3 female (1 black, 2 white), with an average age of 46 years. Those who had withdrawal had an average serum ethanol level, on presentation, of 239 mg/dL (N=34). Fourteen patients were involved in motor vehicle crashes, seven were pedestrians struck by cars, and the remaining 16 had various traumatic mechanisms of injury. The most common injuries were long-bone fractures and blunt abdominal trauma. The length of ethanol therapy averaged 4 days. A majority of patients had a favorable response to treatment. Relative contraindications to IV ethanol therapy were CNS trauma, liver disease, and pancreatitis. IV ethanol is a safe and effective method of alcohol detoxification in the trauma patient.

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