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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Oct 1;132(3):521-7. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.03.022. Epub 2013 May 16.

Postoperative risks associated with alcohol screening depend on documented drinking at the time of surgery.

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Health Services Research and Development, Department of Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, 1660 South Columbian Way (S-152), Seattle, WA 98108, United States; Department of Health Services, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States. Electronic address:



Both AUDIT-C alcohol screening scores up to a year before surgery and clinical documentation of drinking over 2 drinks per day immediately prior to surgery ("documented drinking >2d/d") are associated with increased postoperative complications and health care utilization. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether documented drinking >2d/d contributed additional information about postoperative risk beyond past-year AUDIT-C screening results.


Male Veterans Affairs (VA) patients who had a non-emergent, non-cardiac, major surgery assessed by the VA's Surgical Quality Improvement Program 10/2003-9/2006 and completed the AUDIT-C by mailed survey in the prior year were eligible for this study. Linear or logistic regression models compared 30-day postoperative complication(s), return to operating room (OR), hospital length of stay (LOS), and intensive care unit (ICU) days across eight groups defined by past-year AUDIT-C score and clinically documented drinking >2d/d, with AUDIT-C scores 1-4 and no documented drinking >2d/d as the referent, after adjusting for important covariates.


Overall 8811 patients met inclusion criteria. Among patients with documented drinking >2d/d immediately prior to surgery, postoperative risk varied widely depending on past-year AUDIT-C score; scores ≥5 were associated with increased risk of complication(s), and scores ≥9 with increased hospital LOS and ICU days. Among patients without documentation of drinking >2d/d, increasing AUDIT-C scores were not associated with these outcomes.


Clinical documentation of drinking >2d/d immediately prior to surgery contributed additional information about postoperative risk beyond past-year AUDIT-C score. However, among patients with documented drinking >2d/d, postoperative risk varied widely depending on the AUDIT-C score.


AUDIT-C; Alcohol; Drinking; Postoperative complications; Postoperative health care utilization

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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