ECG changes amongst patients with alcohol withdrawal seizures and delirium tremens
Swiss Medical Weekly
Alcohol withdrawal seizures and delirium tremens (DT) are serious complications of alcohol dependence. The prevalence of arrhythmias and other electrocardiographic (ECG) changes occurring in these clinical situations is not well studied. We performed a retrospective analysis of clinical data and ECG's from patients discharged between 1995 and 2005 with the diagnosis of DT (ICD-Code F10.4) or alcohol withdrawal seizures (F10.3). Measurement of the ECG intervals was done in lead II. The corrected
... d II. The corrected QT interval (QTc) was obtained using Bazett's formula. 49 patients (38 males; 11 females) with a mean age of 48 years were included in the study. 23 patients with DT and 16 with convulsions were admitted to the hospitals. Ten patients developed DT while being hospitalised for other reasons. The QTc interval was prolonged (>440 ms and >460 ms in males and females, respectively) in 31 patients (63%). Five patients (10%) developed tachyarrhythmias (two torsade de pointes, one sustained ventricular tachycardia, two supraventricular tachycardia, one atrial fibrillation). All returned to sinus rhythm after appropriate treatment. Tachyarrhythmias are common amongst patients with severe alcohol withdrawal syndromes. The majority of the patients had an acquired long QT syndrome which led to a torsade de pointes in two cases. No patient died in the hospital and all were discharged in sinus rhythm. Clinicians should possibly avoid QT prolonging drugs and carefully monitor the rhythm in patients with severe alcohol withdrawal syndromes.