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Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2005 Feb;117(3):83-91.

Disturbances of electrolytes and blood chemistry in acute alcohol intoxication.

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Department of General Internal Medicine, Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.


Prevalence of electrolyte disturbances and biochemical changes were determined in patients admitted to the emergency room of the Department of Internal Medicine in Innsbruck, Austria during a six-month period. The value of biochemical parameters for the detection of chronic alcohol abuse was also investigated. The most frequent electrolyte disturbances found were hypernatremia (41%), hyperchloremia (21%), hypermagnesemia (17%) and hypocalcemia (15%), whereas hypokalemia and hypophosphatemia were observed quite rarely (5% and 3.4%, respectively). The most frequent biochemical changes observed were consistent with signs of cellular toxicity i.e. increased liver enzymes (elevated gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT), aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase and lactic dehydrogenase) as well as signs of pancreatitis (elevated serum lipase and amylase) and muscle damage (elevated creatine kinase). The most frequent changes in blood counts were leucocytosis (23%), thrombocytopenia (14%), and anemia (12%). C-reactive protein showed only minimal elevation. Male sex and level of blood alcohol were detected as major risk factors for the diagnosis of chronic alcohol abuse in the patient sample investigated. When testing the value of routinely measured parameters for predicting the presence of chronic alcohol abuse, GGT and mean corpuscular volume of red blood cells (MCV) appeared to be of equal value. A combination of elevated blood alcohol with an increase in either of these markers may be interpreted as high risk for chronic alcohol abuse in this particular group of patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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