Load and go: Assessing safety outcomes of patients discharged from the emergency department after receiving phenobarbital for alcohol withdrawal.

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OBJECTIVES: Phenobarbital (PB) is a long-acting GABA A-agonist with favorable pharmacokinetics (long half-life and duration of effect) that allows effective treatment of alcohol withdrawal (AW) after administration of a single loading dose. Current evidence suggests that in the setting of AW, PB administration may be associated with decreased hospital admissions and hospital length of stay. The aim of this study was to evaluate the safety outcomes of AW patients who were treated and discharged from the emergency department (ED) after receiving PB for AW.

METHODS: This retrospective chart review included a convenience sample of 33 AW patients who presented to four EDs within an 18-month span. Descriptive statistics (frequencies and percentages) were used to describe demographics, distribution of resources and referrals, and the safety outcomes of PB administration for low-risk AW patients. Patients were selected for inclusion in consultation with a medical toxicologist, treated with PB, and discharged from the ED. Electronic medical records were utilized to gather information on the patient cohort.

RESULTS: All patients were treated with at least a single loading dose of 5‒10 mg/kg (ideal body weight) of intravenous or per os PB during their ED stay. Only one patient had an unanticipated event after discharge, which was related to driving against advice. Two additional patients had ED revisits for recurrent alcohol use within 72 h, and 16 patients had recurrent alcohol use within 30 days. All 33 patients were provided with resources for linkage to treatment. None required hospital admission.

CONCLUSION: ED PB "load and go" may be a safe, effective AW treatment that could help treat AW, facilitate linkage to specific rehabilitation treatments, and decrease hospital admissions.





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Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine Faculty, Toxicology Division, Department of Family Medicine, USF-LVHN SELECT Program, USF-LVHN SELECT Program Faculty, USF-LVHN SELECT Program Students

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