What are delirium tremens (DTs)?

Updated: Nov 06, 2020
  • Author: Michael James Burns, MD, FACEP, FACP, FIDSA; Chief Editor: Michael R Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FCCP, FAPS, MCCM  more...
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Answer

Delirium tremens (DTs) is the most severe form of ethanol withdrawal, manifested by altered mental status (global confusion) and sympathetic overdrive (autonomic hyperactivity), which can progress to cardiovascular collapse. Minor alcohol withdrawal is characterized by tremor, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia. Major alcohol withdrawal signs and symptoms include visual hallucinations and auditory hallucinations, whole body tremor, vomiting, diaphoresis, and hypertension (high blood pressure). DTs is the most severe manifestation of alcohol withdrawal and clinical manifestations include agitation, global confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, fever, hypertension, diaphoresis, and autonomic hyperactivity (tachycardia and hypertension). Profound global confusion is the hallmark of delirium tremens. DTs is a medical emergency with a high mortality rate, making early recognition and treatment essential. See Prognosis, Clinical Presentation, Differentials, Workup, and Treatment.


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