What is the role of lab tests in the workup of ethanol alcohol toxicity?

Updated: Jan 05, 2021
  • Author: Michael D Levine, MD; Chief Editor: Jeter (Jay) Pritchard Taylor, III, MD  more...
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Answer

The single most important laboratory test in a patient who appears intoxicated with ethanol is a serum glucose level. Hypoxia, head injury, seizures, and other metabolic disturbances must be excluded by either history or physical examination or sought with the appropriate tests. The routine use of a serum blood alcohol level is controversial, largely because it is unlikely to affect management in a patient who is awake and alert. Many clinicians consider the patient safe for discharge once they are clinically (not numerically) no longer intoxicated.

In patients who are chronic alcoholics, anemia, thrombocytopenia, elevation of hepatic transaminase levels, and a prolongation of the prothrombin time can be observed. These need not be routinely checked in a patient who presents simply for alcohol intoxication but may be useful if changes from baseline are suspected.


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