Improved outcomes in patients with head and neck cancer using a standardized care protocol for postoperative alcohol withdrawal

Christopher D. Lansford, Cathleen H. Guerriero, Mary J. Kocan, Richard Turley, Michael W. Groves, Vinita Bahl, Paul Abrahamse, Carol R. Bradford, Douglas B. Chepeha, Jeffrey Moyer, Mark E. Prince, Gregory T. Wolf, Michelle L. Aebersold, Theodoros N. Teknos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objective: To show clinical benefit in the main outcome measures by the use of a standardized protocol for identification, characterization, and treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) in postoperative patients with head and neck cancer. Design: Prospective cohort study with a retrospective cohort control. Setting: Tertiary care university. Patients: A total of 26 consecutive postoperative patients with AWS were selected from among 652 patients with head and neck cancer to be enrolled in the protocol from March 2003 through March 2005. Controls consisted of 14 of 981 consecutive patients with AWS from March 2000 through December 2002. Intervention: Application of a standardized care protocol. Main Outcome Measures: Sensitivity and specificity of preoperative screening for AWS risk, predictability of outcomes, length of stay, transfers to the intensive care unit (ICU), AWS symptoms, postoperative morbidity and mortality, doses of pharmacotherapy required, and charges. Results: Protocol patients demonstrated significantly fewer AWS-related ICU transfers and less delirium and violence than preprotocol patients. Mortality, wound complications, hospital charges, and doses of benzodiazepines, clonidine, and haloperidol were not significantly different between these 2 groups. Preoperative medical history correlated poorly with AWS outcomes. Screening was 87.5% sensitive and 99.7% specific. Late enrollees to the protocol (false-negative screening results) showed many significantly worse outcomes than immediate enrollees. Conclusion: Use of the standardized AWS symptom-triggered protocol decreased delirium, violence, and AWS-related ICU transfers without significantly increasing hospital charges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)865-872
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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