I.v. 0.9% sodium chloride (normal saline) is frequently used to treat ED patients with acute alcohol intoxication despite the lack of evidence for its efficacy. Objective: The study aims to compare treatment with i.v. normal saline and observation with observation alone in ED patients with acute alcohol intoxication.
A single-blind, randomised, controlled trial was conducted to compare a single bolus of 20mL/kg i.v. normal saline plus observation with observation alone. One hundred and forty-four ED patients with uncomplicated acute alcohol intoxication were included. The study was conducted in one tertiary and one urban ED in Queensland, Australia. Primary outcome was ED length of stay (EDLOS). Secondary outcomes were treatment time, breath alcohol levels, intoxication symptom score, level of intoxication and associated healthcare costs.
Both groups were comparable at baseline: blood alcohol content (BAC) was similar between treatment and control groups (0.20 % BACvs 0.19 % BAC, P=0.44) as were initial intoxication symptom scores (22.0 vs 22.3, P=0.90). Both groups had a similar EDLOS (287min vs 274min, P=0.89; difference 13min [95% CI -37-63]) and treatment time (244min vs 232min, P=0.94; difference 12min [95% CI -31-55]). Change of breath alcohol levels, intoxication score and level of intoxication were not significantly different between the two groups. Patients in the treatment group had an additional healthcare cost of A$31.92 compared with control.
I.v. normal saline therapy added to observation alone does not decrease ED length of stay compared with observation alone. Intoxication symptom scores and general state of intoxication were similar in both groups. The present study suggests that either approach is reasonable, but observation alone might be preferred as it is less resource intensive.