Background: Patients who screen positive for alcohol misuse on the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test Consumption Questionnaire (AUDIT-C ≥5 points) have significantly increased postoperative complications. Severe alcohol misuse (AUDIT-C ≥9 points) is associated with increased postoperative health care use; however, little is known about the prevalence of alcohol misuse in demographic and clinical subgroups of surgical patients.
Methods: The prevalence of alcohol misuse was evaluated among 10,284 patients (9,771 men and 513 women) who underwent major noncardiac surgery in Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals during the fiscal years 2004 to 2006 and completed the AUDIT-C. Sex-stratified analyses evaluated prevalence rates of alcohol misuse (AUDIT-C ≥5) and severe misuse (AUDIT-C ≥9) across demographic and clinical subgroups.
Results: Overall, 1,607 (16%) men and 24 (5%) women screened positive for alcohol misuse (AUDIT-C ≥5) in the year before operation, with 4% and 2% screening positive for severe misuse (AUDIT-C ≥9), respectively. Alcohol misuse was more common among men who were <60 years of age, divorced or separated, current smokers, or American Stoke Association class 1 or 2, and those with cirrhosis/hepatitis or substance use disorders. Among patients with alcohol misuse, 36% of men and 58% of women were American Society of Anesthesiologists class 1 or 2, and most did not have diagnoses that were commonly associated with alcohol misuse.
Conclusion: Alcohol misuse is relatively common in male surgical patients. Moreover, surgical patients undergoing operation who screen positive for alcohol misuse are often relatively healthy, without health problems that might alert providers to their alcohol misuse in the absence of screening.
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