Vitamin deficiencies in acutely intoxicated patients in the ED



      Physicians often administer intravenous multivitamins to intoxicated patients in the emergency department (ED); however, this practice is not supported by evidence from any prior study. We determined the prevalences of vitamin deficiencies in patients presenting to our ED with alcohol intoxication.


      This study was a prospective, cross-section, observational study of a convenience sample of ED patients presenting with acute alcohol intoxication. Patients were tested for B12, folate, and thiamine levels as add-ons to their blood samples.


      Seventy-seven patients were included in the final analysis. The mean age was 46 years, and 19% were female; the mean blood alcohol level was 280 mg/dL. Of 75 patients, no one (0%) had low B12 or folate levels (95% confidence interval, 0-0.05); 6 (15%) of 39 patients had low thiamine levels (95% confidence interval, 0.06-0.31). Of these 6 patients, none exhibited clinical signs of thiamine deficiency.


      In our ED, patients with acute ethanol intoxication do not have B12 or folate deficiencies. A significant minority (15%) of patients have thiamine deficiency; its clinical significance is unclear. Widespread administration of multivitamins is unwarranted by these findings, but thiamine may be considered.
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