The febrile alcoholic in the emergency department

Am J Emerg Med. 1991 Jan;9(1):57-60. doi: 10.1016/0735-6757(91)90018-f.


The authors retrospectively reviewed the charts of 31 alcoholic patients admitted with fever without a defined source. In our population 58% of patients were subsequently found to have an infectious cause for their fever. Pneumonia was the most common infection, but occult urinary tract infections were seen surprisingly often. Noninfectious but serious disorders, such as delirium tremens, prolonged postictal state, and subarachnoid hemorrhage, were also common. Infectious and noninfectious causes commonly coexisted. The most common noninfectious cause was alcohol withdrawal, with or without seizures. The authors believe that indigent, malnourished, chronic alcoholics with fever for which a source cannot be readily identified, should usually be admitted to the hospital for observation and to await culture results.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / complications*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Fever / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Infections / complications
  • Infections / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies