Indexed on: 26 Sep '15Published on: 26 Sep '15Published in: Hospital pharmacy
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to manage and may lead to an intensive care unit (ICU) admission. Patients experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal often require high doses of sedatives, which can lead to respiratory depression and the need for endotracheal intubation. Dexmedetomidine, an alpha-2 adrenoreceptor agonist, provides adequate sedation with little effect on respiratory function when compared to other sedatives.To evaluate sedation with a continuous infusion of dexmedetomidine versus propofol and/or lorazepam in critically ill patients experiencing alcohol withdrawal.A retrospective chart review was conducted on ICU admissions between March 2002 and April 2009 for alcohol withdrawal patients who necessitated treatment with a continuous infusion of dexmedetomidine, propofol, and/or lorazepam. Primary outcomes included the incidence of mechanical ventilation, length of mechanical ventilation (if applicable), and ICU and hospital length of stay.Fifteen patients were treated with a continuous infusion of dexmedetomidine, and 17 were treated with an infusion of propofol and/or lorazepam. Two patients (13.3%) required intubation and mechanical ventilation in the dexmedetomidine group versus 10 (58.8%) in the propofol and/or lorazepam group (P = .006). Length of stay in the ICU was 53 hours for patients treated with dexmedetomidine versus 114.9 hours in the propofol and/or lorazepam group (P = .016). Hospital length of stay was less for the dexmedetomidine group, 135.8 hours versus 241.1 hours in the propofol and/or lorazepam group (P = .008).Dexmedetomidine use was associated with a decrease in the incidence of endotracheal intubation when used to sedate patients experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Patients transferred to a lower level of care faster and were discharged from the hospital sooner when treated with dexmedetomidine.