Implementation of a CIWA-Ar Alcohol Withdrawal Protocol in a Veterans Hospital

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Abstract

Objectives

The South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) implemented a Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol Scale, Revised (CIWA-Ar)–based alcohol-withdrawal protocol in June 2013. The aim of this study was to determine the efficacy and safety of the new protocol. The primary objective was the evaluation of whether implementation of the CIWA-Ar alcohol-withdrawal protocol decreased the average length of hospital stay for patients admitted with alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) as compared with treatment before the introduction of the protocol. Secondary endpoints evaluated benzodiazepine (BZD)-prescribing practices, use of adjunctive medications for AWS, and safety outcomes.

Methods

We reviewed 748 admissions with documented AWS or alcohol-related diagnoses during the study periods of July 2012 to December 2012 (preprotocol) and July 2013 to December 2013 (postprotocol). Patients in the preprotocol group needed to have a scheduled dose of a BZD in the electronic medical record, and those assigned to the postprotocol group needed to have at least one documented CIWA-Ar note in their electronic medical record. Exclusion criteria included prior conditions that interfered with accurate treatment of alcohol withdrawal.

Results

There were no statistical differences in baseline characteristics between groups. No difference was found in the primary endpoint of length of stay when comparing hospitalizations pre- and postprotocol implementation (3.84 ± 2.31 days vs 3.82 ± 2.7 days; P = 0.667). There was no statistical significance in total cumulative dose of BZD, daily dose of BZD, or duration of BZD use when compared pre- and postprotocol. No safety events requiring further intervention occurred.

Conclusions

Implementation of a CIWA-Ar protocol at our institution did not result in a decreased duration of hospital stay; however, a decline in prescribing fixed-schedule BZDs was documented.

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