Preventive care in the emergency department: screening and brief intervention for alcohol problems in the emergency department: a systematic review

Acad Emerg Med. 2002 Jun;9(6):627-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2002.tb02304.x.


Objective: To systematically review the medical literature in order to determine the strength of the recommendation for screening and brief intervention (SBI) for alcohol-related problems in the emergency department (ED) setting.

Methods: The review followed the methodology of systematic reviews and was facilitated through the use of a structured template, a companion explanatory piece, and a grading and methodological scoring system based on published criteria for critical appraisal. The primary outcome measure was the prevention of mortality and morbidity secondary to alcohol-related illnesses/injuries. The secondary outcome measures included: decreased consumption; fewer ED/outpatient visits and hospitalizations; a decrease in social consequences; and increased referrals for follow-up and/or treatment. Three Medline searches as well as a search of the Cochrane Library were performed. Two team members reviewed the abstracts and selected pertinent articles. References were screened for additional pertinent articles.

Results: Twenty-seven articles were identified and reviewed, in addition to the 14 primary articles included in the 1996 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Report. The study populations were diverse, including inpatient, outpatient, and college settings, with ages ranging from 12 to 70 years. Four studies were ED-based and two included EDs as one of multiple sites. Thirty-nine studies on SBI, 30 randomized controlled and nine cohort, were used to formulate the current recommendation. A positive effect of the intervention was demonstrated in 32 of these studies.

Conclusions: The authors recommend that SBI for alcohol-related problems in the ED be incorporated into clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Alcoholism / prevention & control*
  • Counseling / methods
  • Emergency Medicine / methods*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic / methods
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Preventive Medicine / methods*
  • Research / standards
  • Research Design