Background

Evidence-based research indicates that subjective questionnaires should be eliminated in screening for alcohol use disorder and management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome in critical care patients. However, transitioning clinicians away from these screening tools remains challenging.

Objective

To improve screening for alcohol use disorder and management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome in the critical care setting by implementing an evidence-based alcohol use disorder screening tool and alcohol withdrawal syndrome protocol for critical care patients.

Methods

The project site was a 17-bed adult medical intensive care unit in a large, southeastern US teaching hospital. Interventions consisted of the elimination of previously used tools such as the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol–Revised and implementation of the Prediction of Alcohol Withdrawal Severity Scale for alcohol use disorder screening and the Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale and symptom-triggered benzodiazepine administration for alcohol withdrawal syndrome management.

Results

Alcohol use disorder screening among the critical care patient population increased by 49% from before to after the intervention. Of the patients at risk for withdrawal, 79% had an order for monitoring with the new intensive care unit alcohol withdrawal protocol in the postintervention group, compared with 35% who had an order for monitoring with the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol–Revised in the preintervention group.

Conclusion

The elimination of previously used tools and the implementation of the Prediction of Alcohol Withdrawal Severity Scale and the new intensive care unit alcohol withdrawal protocol improved alcohol use disorder screening and alcohol withdrawal syndrome management among critical care patients.

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