Drinkers Stay in Hospitals Longer, Cost More

Alcohol related AUDIT-C test scores related to extended hospital visits and higher costs

(RxWiki News) Heavy drinkers are known to have increased risk for several health related problems. In addition, drinking could be related to longer recovery time from hospital visits.

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test–Consumption (AUDIT-C) rates alcohol consumption on a scale of 0 to 12, where 0 means no drinking and 12 relates to heavy drinking on an almost-daily basis. High-risk drinkers (9-12) were likely to spend more time in the hospital and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after an operation than low-risk drinkers (1-4).

"Ask your doctor to help you manage your alcohol consumption."

The study was led by Anna D. Rubinsky, MS, researcher at Veteran's Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System.

The team analyzed data involving hospital stay length, readmission to the operating room, and time in the ICU for patients who had filled out the AUDIT-C within one year of surgery.

Those with a score of 9-12 on AUDIT-C (high-risk drinkers) spent almost a day longer in the hospital and 1.5 days longer in the ICU than those with a score of 1-4 (low-risk drinkers). Additionally, high-risk drinkers were twice as likely to return to the operating room within 30 days.

The study included 5,171 male VA patients who had completed the AUDIT-C mailed survey within one year of surgery and were hospitalized for non-emergency, non-cardiac, in-patient operations. Women were excluded from the study due to low numbers of women with high AUDIT-C scores.

The researchers believe that an alcohol screening could help health care providers understand patient needs and reduce related hospital costs.

"The findings from this study indicate that preoperative alcohol screening might serve as an effective tool to identify patients at risk for increased postoperative care,” adds Rubinsky. “Implementing preoperative alcohol screening and providing proactive interventions could potentially decrease the need for costly postoperative resources and improve patient outcomes."

The study was published in the March 2012 issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons and was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Research and Development, Health Services Research and Development, and the University of Washington. 

Review Date: 
March 18, 2012