Hosp Pharm. 2021 Oct;56(5):550-559. doi: 10.1177/0018578720931464. Epub 2020 Jun 2.
Background: Phenobarbital offers several possible advantages to benzodiazepines including a longer half-life and anti-glutamate activity, and is an alternative for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal. The objective of this analysis was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a phenobarbital protocol for alcohol withdrawal newly implemented at our institution. Methods: This was a single-center, retrospective analysis of adult patients admitted to the medical/surgical/burn/trauma intensive care unit (ICU) with or at risk of severe alcohol withdrawal. Patients who were admitted prior to guideline implementation and received scheduled benzodiazepines (PRE) were compared to those who received phenobarbital post guideline update (POST). The primary outcome was ICU length of stay (LOS). Results: Upon analysis, 68 patients in the PRE and 64 patients in the POST were identified for inclusion. The median APACHE II score was significantly higher in the POST (4.5 [3:9] vs 10 [5:13], P < 0.001). ICU (2 [1:2] vs 2 [2:5], P = 0.002) and hospital (4.5 [3:6] vs 8 [6:12], P < 0.001) LOS were significantly longer in the POST. There was no difference in mortality or duration of mechanical ventilation. More patients required propofol or dexmedetomidine on day one in the POST (P < 0.001). Conclusion: Patients in the POST had significantly longer ICU and hospital LOS, and had a higher baseline severity of illness. Future research is needed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of phenobarbital compared to benzodiazepines for severe alcohol withdrawal.