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Nicotine Withdrawal Can Complicate Hospital Care

More attention should be paid to prevention and treatment, expert says

FRIDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- Nicotine withdrawal can create serious problems for smokers who have a medical condition that puts them in intensive care, according to a new study.

Researchers from Caen University Hospital in France found that hospital patients going through nicotine withdrawal can become highly agitated and accidentally remove tubes and catheters, require additional sedation, analgesic or anti-psychotic medicines, or need physical restraints.

Agitation, for example, occurred twice as often among smokers as non-smokers, the researchers found.

Their study, published online April 9 in Critical Care, compared 44 smokers and a control group of 100 non-smokers treated in the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU).

"These results suggest the need to be aware of nicotine withdrawal syndrome in critically ill patients and support the need for improved strategies to prevent agitation or treat it earlier," study author Damien du Cheyron said in a news release from the journal's publisher.

None of the smokers were allowed nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) during the study.

"NRT remains a controversial topic in intensive care and has been associated with mortality," du Cheyron said. "Due to the serious consequences of withdrawal-induced agitation, including sedation and physical restraint, we suggest the use of nicotine replacement therapy should be tested by a well-designed, randomized controlled clinical trial in the ICU setting."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about nicotine withdrawal.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: BioMed Central, news release, April 8, 2010

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