Risk factors for severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome in an acute hospital population

George Benson, Jacqueline McCallum, Nicola Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)



The literature lacks consensus to the factors that increase the risk of a patient developing severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome (SAWS).


The study set out to identify the variables that increase the risk of SAWS in patients who have alcohol dependence syndrome.


A case–control study was designed to investigate the variables associated with SAWS in an acute hospital setting. Three hundred eighty-two case and 382 control patients were randomly selected retrospectively from referrals to the acute addiction liaison nursing service during a 12-month period (January 1, 2015, to December 31, 2015). Statistical significance (p < .05) and association with SAWS were calculated using chi-square, Cramer’s V test, odds ratio, and Levene’s test.


Twenty-four variables have been identified as associated with SAWS development. Five of the 24 variables had a moderate-to-strong association with SAWS risk: Fast Alcohol Screening Test, Glasgow Modified Alcohol Withdrawal Scale score, AWS admission, hours since the last drink, and systolic blood pressure. The study also identified that comorbidity was associated with not developing SAWS.


These findings confirm that noninvasive variables collected in the emergency department are useful in identifying a person’s risk of developing SAWS. The results of this study are a useful starting point in the exploration of SAWS and the development of a tool for use in the emergency department that can stratify risk into high and low and is the next stage of this program of work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-168
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Addictions Nursing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • alcohol
  • alcohol withdrawal syndrome
  • alcohol-related seizures
  • delirium tremens
  • general hospital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Phychiatric Mental Health


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