Discussions By Condition: Cardiovascular disease

Alcohol, fainting, shock symptoms

Posted In: Cardiovascular disease 0 Replies
  • Posted By: batyah
  • March 19, 2007
  • 01:40 PM

I witnessed something strange recently and would like input if anyone here is a medical person. I'm a retired nurse, but something about this doesn't add up for me.

I was at a sit-down dinner where the host thought it was funny to keep filling up everyone's wine glass and then pressuring them to drink up. An obese, middle-aged man sitting across from me politely drank his refilled glasses of wine before the main course had been served. I really do not think he had more than 2 or 3 glasses of wine, but it's hard to say for sure. He got up to go to the bathroom and promptly fainted and took a hard fall to the floor. We did not see him fall so I can't say if he hit his head directly, but he did not complain of any head pain or chest pain. I rushed over and he was just coming to and said he did not remember falling. Classic fainting spell. I assumed it was nothing more than his drinking too much alcohol on an empty stomach. I had him sit up, and he immediately complained of faintness and his skin became dusky, cool and clammy. Had him lay down and elevated his legs. He did not lose consciousness again, just complained of feeling faint every time he tried to sit. Throughout the entire episode, he was completely lucid, clear in speech, and did not appear "drunk" at all. I had him drink water as well as nibble on something to eat, and periodically would try to sit him up, but once again, he would go cool and clammy and feel faint.

This lasted 2 hours! I began to suspect that there was more going on than just a little extra alcohol on an empty stomach. It seemed to me that he should have been able to recover more quickly and I began to wonder if he had some sort of cardiac arrhythmia or vascular problem. Heart rate was on the rapid side but otherwise even. After about 2 hours, he was able to stand without falling down, and we accompanied him back to his hotel room. He looked straight at me to thank me, with good color in his skin and lucid speech, and promptly fell down! He insisted he was fine and stood up, and we stayed with him for about a half an hour until I felt reasonably sure that he was okay. He was planning to go straight to bed. I told his companion to have him call the hotel medical service immediately if he experienced any chest pain, odd sensations, or any episode of loss of consciousness again, and urged him to see his doctor when he got home. I never heard what became of him.

Is this just a case of having too much to drink on an empty stomach, or is there more going on? Two hours seems like a long time to pass before being able to simply stand up, particularly when he did not exhibit any CNS symptoms of alcohol intoxication. I think my husband thought I was being a bit of an alarmist, but something didn't seem right about this picture. Any thoughts?

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