What is the mortality and morbidity of alcohol withdrawal syndrome?

Updated: Aug 15, 2018
  • Author: Nathanael J McKeown, DO; Chief Editor: David Vearrier, MD, MPH  more...
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Answer

The mortality rate from severe alcohol withdrawal and delirium tremens (DT) historically has been as high as 20% if untreated. Early recognition and improved treatment has reduced the mortality rate from DT to approximately 1-5%. Many patients with alcohol withdrawal have additional medical or traumatic conditions that may increase their associated risk of morbidity and mortality. Risk factors associated with increased mortality include the following [3] :

  • Cirrhosis
  • DT
  • Underlying chronic pathology other than liver disease
  • Need for endotracheal intubation

The mortality rate from less severe alcohol withdrawal is negligible and related to underlying conditions rather than alcohol withdrawal.

Sedative or hypnotic withdrawal shares many of the features of alcohol withdrawal, namely, agitation, disorientation, seizures, sympathetic hyperactivity, hypertension, insomnia, anxiety, and anorexia.


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