Acute Inferior ST-elevation Myocardial Infarction Due to Delirium Tremens

A Case Report

Maxwell D. Mirande; George Kubac; Anh T. Nguyen


J Med Case Reports. 2019;13(306) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Delirium tremens is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Literature documenting acute coronary events in the setting of alcohol withdrawal remains scarce. An accepted hypothesis for the underlying process is focused on the hyperadrenergic state that leads to coronary vasospasm and increased myocardial oxygen demand.

Case presentation: A 47-year-old Caucasian man with a past medical history of tobacco and alcohol abuse, hypertension, and anxiety presented to the emergency department for crampy epigastric abdominal pain with intractable nausea and vomiting for the past 2 days. His reported last alcoholic intake was about 10 days prior; however, outpatient records indicated otherwise. He was admitted for electrolyte replacement and fluid resuscitation secondary to gastrointestinal losses from presumed early alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The following night, he developed acute substernal chest pain with elevated cardiac enzymes. Electrocardiography showed an acute inferoposterior infarct with reciprocal changes in leads V1–V4. The patient was taken for emergent catheterization, and a drug-eluting stent was placed in the middle of the left anterior descending artery. Postcatheterization electrocardiography showed sustained inferolateral ST elevations consistent with acute injury pattern. The patient had not required any benzodiazepines until this point. On the morning of catheterization, the patient's Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol–Revised score was 19 with a high of 25, and he was actively hallucinating. He was treated for delirium tremens and an acute coronary event along with an incidental pneumonia. He did not require any benzodiazepines during the last 4 days of admission, and he made a full recovery.

Conclusions: The prevalence of alcohol dependence in hospitalized patients is substantial. Although our patient was being treated with the standard protocols for alcohol withdrawal, he rapidly developed delirium tremens, which led to an acute inferior ST-elevation myocardial infarction in the setting of nonoccluded coronary vessels. This case report adds to the sparse literature documenting acute coronary events in the setting of alcohol withdrawal and suggests that our patient's ST-elevation myocardial infarction is not fully explained by the current coronary vasospasm hypothesis, but rather was in part the result of direct catecholamine-associated myocardial injury. Further research should be conducted on prophylactic agents such as β-blockers and calcium channel blockers.