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J Am Coll Surg. 2012 Aug;215(2):229-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2012.04.015. Epub 2012 Jun 21.

Health care-associated infections in surgical patients undergoing elective surgery: are alcohol use disorders a risk factor?

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Division of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298-0050, USA.



Health care-associated infections (HAI) result in 100,000 deaths/year. Alcohol use disorders (AUD) increase the risk of community-acquired infections and HAI. Small studies have shown that AUD increase the risk of HAI and surgical site infections (SSI). We sought to determine the risk of HAI and SSI in surgical patients undergoing elective inpatient joint replacement, coronary artery bypass grafting, laparoscopic cholecystectomy, colectomy, and hernia repair.


The Nationwide Inpatient Sample was analyzed (years 2007 and 2008). HAI were defined as health care-associated pneumonia, sepsis, SSI, and urinary tract infection. Primary outcomes were risk of HAI and SSI in patients with AUD. Secondary outcomes were mortality and hospital length of stay in patients with HAI and SSI, alpha = 10(-6).


There were 1,275,034 inpatient admissions analyzed; 38,335 (3.0%) cases of HAI were documented, and 5,756 (0.5%) cases of SSI were identified. AUD was diagnosed in 11,640 (0.9%) of cases. Multivariable analysis demonstrated that AUD was an independent predictor of developing HAI: odds ratio (OR) 1.70, p < 10(-6), and this risk was independent of type of surgery. By multivariable analysis, the risk of SSI in patients with AUD was also higher: OR 2.73, p < 10(-6). Hospital mortality in patients with HAI or SSI was not affected by AUD. However, hospital length of stay was longer in patients with HAI who had AUD (multivariable analysis 2.4 days longer, p < 10(-6)). Among patients with SSI, those with AUD did not have longer hospital length of stay.


Patients with AUD who undergo a variety of elective operations have an increased risk of infectious postoperative morbidity.

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