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Feasibility and reliability of the SHOT: A short scale for measuring pretreatment severity of alcohol withdrawal in the emergency department.

BACKGROUND: Use of a symptom-triggered scale to measure the severity of alcohol withdrawal could reduce the rate of seizures and other complications. The current standard scale, the Clinical Institute of Withdrawal Assessment (CIWA), takes a mean (±SD) of 5 minutes to complete, requiring 30 minutes of nursing time per patient when multiple measures are required.

OBJECTIVES: The objective was to assess the feasibility and reliability of a brief scale of alcohol withdrawal severity.

METHODS: The SHOT is a brief scale designed to assess alcohol withdrawal in the emergency department (ED). It includes four items: sweating, hallucinations, orientation, and tremor (SHOT). It was developed based on a literature review and a consensus process by emergency and addiction physicians. The SHOT was first piloted in one ED, and then a prospective observational study was conducted at a different ED to measure its feasibility and reliability. Subjects included patients who were in alcohol withdrawal. One nurse administered the SHOT and CIWA, and the physician repeated the SHOT independently. The SHOT was done only at baseline, before treatment was administered.

RESULTS: In the pilot study (12 patients), the SHOT took 1 minute to complete on average, and the CIWA took 5 minutes. Sixty-one patients participated in the prospective study. For the SHOT and the CIWA done by the same nurse, the kappa was 0.88 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.52 to 1.0; p < 0.0001), and the Pearson's r was 0.71 (p < 0.001). The kappa for the nurse's CIWA score and the physician's SHOT score was 0.61 (95% CI = 0.25 to 0.97; p < 0.0006), and the Pearson's r was 0.48 (p = 0.002). The SHOTs performed by the nurse and physician agreed on the need for benzodiazepine treatment in 30 of 37 cases (82% agreement, kappa = 0.35, 95% CI = 0.03 to 0.67; p < 0.02). The mean (±SD) time taken by nurses and physicians to complete the SHOT was 1 (± 0.52) minute (median = 0.6 minutes). Seventeen percent of patients scored positive on the SHOT for hallucinations or disorientation.

CONCLUSIONS: The SHOT has potential as a feasible and acceptable tool for measuring pretreatment alcohol withdrawal severity in the ED. Further research is needed to validate the SHOT, to assess the utility of serial measurements of the SHOT, and to demonstrate that its use reduces length of stay and improves clinical outcomes.

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