Studies of alcohol withdrawal syndrome indicate a higher prevalence in men than in women. However, it is unknown how the condition differs between the sexes.


To assess alcohol withdrawal syndrome in women versus men at a single site.


All cases of alcohol withdrawal syndrome at a public hospital from 2010 to 2014 were reviewed retrospectively. For all 1496 episodes, age, sex, and admission to a general care unit (ward) versus the medical intensive care unit were ascertained, along with patient survival. A detailed analysis was performed of 437 cases: all 239 patients admitted to the medical intensive care unit, all 99 female patients admitted to the ward, and 99 randomly selected male patients admitted to the ward. Also analyzed were administration of benzodiazepines, disease course, length of stay, and complications.


Men accounted for 92% of all cases (1378 of 1496; P < .001) and medical intensive care unit admissions (220 of 239; P < .05). Sixteen percent of both men and women were admitted to the medical intensive care unit. Men were older (mean age, 45.6 vs 43.9 years; P < .01), and women required more benzodiazepines. Similar rates of complications occurred in both sexes, although women had a higher rate of pancreatitis and men had higher rates of pneumonia, higher rates of sepsis, and longer stays.


Men and women with alcohol withdrawal syndrome have similar complications, courses, and intensive care unit admission rates, although men are more prone to pneumonia and have longer stays.

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