Question for Nurses, or more specifically ones that work or have worked in OR

  1. On another board I post on we were talking about Alcohol withdrawals, (this is a non nursing board, not even medical related, just a group of close nit people talking), a poster was asking about how long the symptons can last and so on and if anyone had exp. with this.

    In short I chimed in that the person should see a Dr. that stopping cold turkey can also be harmful, especially depending on how long and how much they have drank and to be safe if the said poster was worried she should convince the person to go to a Dr. to make sure they are ok.

    Another poster chimed in, about the withdrawals and what can happen and stuff, she learned this from her husband, who is a OR Tech and in his first year of nursing school. She says that he had told her how they have given alcohol to a Pt. that was about to undergo Surgery to keep him from going into shock. :stone

    So poster 3 chimed in saying that really seems shocking since alcohol can thin the blood.

    I responded that I had never heard of such a thing and I dunno, but it just doesn't seem OK and that when I start NS in the fall I was going to have to ask my Instructors about this. Told her that I am not saying her husband is lying, but it just doesn't seem safe to give a Pt. alcohol before surgery, to many variables. Obviously I am not yet even in NS, the only Co Reqs I have taken are Pathophysiology and Nutrition. So I am far from someone that can judge if this could happen or not. I imagine I will learn a lot of things that just don't seem right to me, but in essense they might be.

    So instead of waiting to as the instructors later this year, I wanted to ask anyone that might have heard of this. I told her I was going to go post this on the nursing boards and get some opinions from nurses that might actual know how true something like this might be.

    She went and clarified with her husband and I am posting the exact post here (after asking her) and want to get some opinions. If this is true, and does happen, I guess I learn something knew, but I have to admit, I am truly shocked LOL.

    This was what her husband told her,

    "I just asked ***** to remind me why they do that, he was saying that nothing he's ever learned in OR tech school or this first year of nursing school so far has said anything about alcohol being a blood thinner. It can destroy your stomach lining and liver, which can lead to those sorts of problems, but that's systemic and from prolonged use, not a direct effect from consumption of alcohol alone. He said they don't want a patient having "DVT's" (whatever that is lol) or going into shock, and has personally heard doctors order an IV of alcohol for a patient ahead of time for a major surgery so that the patient doesn't have those issues many times over the past 12 years working there.

    He said they've never covered that in his nursing program, and doesn't expect that they will since OR nursing is a specialty and what is taught is mainly floor/ICU/ER nursing."
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    About ~Mi Vida Loca~RN

    Joined: Feb '09; Posts: 6,090; Likes: 7,027

    10 Comments

  3. by   newohiorn
    I know physicians have ordered alcohol with a patient's meals to prevent withdrawal but I don't work in OR so I don't know anything about alcohol being given before surgery or as an IV. In my experience we treat the withdrawal symptoms with a standard protocol using various meds like benzodiazepines, etc.

    If someone is asking about alcohol withdrawal because they or someone they know is going to try to quit cold turkey it is not a good idea. Withdrawal from alcohol can be fatal and should be done with some sort of medical supervision. DTs (rather than DVTs) stands for delirium tremens--a possible result of alcohol withdrawal.
  4. by   ~Mi Vida Loca~RN
    Quote from newohiorn
    I know physicians have ordered alcohol with a patient's meals to prevent withdrawal but I don't work in OR so I don't know anything about alcohol being given before surgery or as an IV. In my experience we treat the withdrawal symptoms with a standard protocol using various meds like benzodiazepines, etc.

    If someone is asking about alcohol withdrawal because they or someone they know is going to try to quit cold turkey it is not a good idea. Withdrawal from alcohol can be fatal and should be done with some sort of medical supervision. DTs (rather than DVTs) stands for delirium tremens--a possible result of alcohol withdrawal.



    Yea that is what I told them, just from things I have read here and things we went over in Patho I told my friend that they should tell the person to go see a Doc.

    I dunno, just seems like a huge risk to take to give someone alcohol before surgery and when going under sedation. Then again, I guess the risk can be greater to not do it.

    Is alcohol a blood thinner? It's what I have also always heard as well, but nothing we have gone over before.

    Like I know I have seen Tattoo parlors have signs saying they won't tat someone who is under the influence of alcohol for that reason.
    Last edit by ~Mi Vida Loca~RN on May 24, '09
  5. by   micco
    i have worked in the OR and in the ER and I have never seen a dr order alcohol for a pt to prevent DTs. if the pt is haivng surgery, anesthesia knows how to manage pts who are alcoholics. i have never heard of administering alcohol via IV. it usually takes 2 to 3 days (even up to 4 days) for DTs to start. there are drugs to manage DTs.
  6. by   flightnurse2b
    i've never heard of giving etoh IV. and before a trip to the OR, the patient should have nothing to eat or drink unless it's an emergency surgery, especially etoh...... like the PP said, anesthesia can manage these patients and they will be medicated appropriately in the OR and on the floor.

    our docs can write for the patient to have their one drink of choice with meals which is gradually titrated to nothing to prevent DT's from immediate etoh withdrawl.... but if a patient comes in withdrawl already, they get around the clock ativan or librium.... maybe thats what he meant?
  7. by   ~Mi Vida Loca~RN
    thank you, I am glad to know I am not completely out of line with my train of thought on it. I mean I am not saying it has never happened, but my exact words on it was that I would think they would have medications and stuff to take help the Pt. and they would also be under sedation.

    Just seems like such a huge risk.

    Her husband told her it was ordered to be given in the IV. Doesn't make any sense to me LOL
  8. by   HelenofOz
    I work in a private surgical hospital where pt's usually come in, have the their surgery, get better, go home (and preferably leave chocolates as they go out the door).

    In the pre-op setting it's not a problem as they are only Nil By Mouth from the night/morning prior to surgery, and any alcohol problems don't usually show for a couple of days. But if we know that old Mrs Soandso usually has a couple of sherries every evening we will get an order for a glass of sherry every evening she is with us written in her medication chart so that nobody is unsure of what's happening.

    I was once phoned up by the NUM and asked to buy a bottle of whisky on my way to work for a certain patient with a problem (re-imbursed of course!)

    We are there to treat to the admitting diagnosis, not fix their lives if that's not what they want. If they have been admitted for drying out, then that's another matter, but why put us all, including the patient, through the miseries when they're only going to go home and pick up here they left off. They are grown ups after all, and we are not their mothers.
  9. by   micco
    i am thinking that it is impossible to give alcohol via IV. first, how would you do it? mix whiskey with NS? i think alcohol would be very damaging to veins.
  10. by   nerdtonurse?
    Oh, God, don't even suggest that they could get a "Jack and Coke" drip at my hospital, we'd have them crawling in thru the windows to get admitted... :
  11. by   ~Mi Vida Loca~RN
    So it seems like so far, no one has heard of such a thing.
  12. by   cherrybreeze
    Obviously it would be in some other form than mixing something "drinkable" with normal saline.

    I don't work IN the OR, but I work on a med-surg floor, and the report we get post op includes all the meds given pre and intra-op, and in the PACU. Never once have heard of one of these being alcohol of any sort. If we know the patient has a hx of alcoholism, we have an assessment protocol to determine the extent of withdrawals/DT's, and if/when the score is high enough, there's either Ativan or Librium protocol to control the symptoms. We only deal with it as it happens, though, not preventatively.

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