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Health Agencies Update
April 25, 2012

Drinking and Surgical Risks

JAMA. 2012;307(16):1683. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.513

High-risk drinking is associated with longer hospital stays and more intensive care after surgery, according to a study funded by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

Previous research has suggested that high-risk drinking is associated with a greater risk of postsurgery complications and that preoperative interventions to reduce drinking may reduce such risks. The new study assessed whether patients with high risk drinking also required additional postoperative care (Rubinsky AD et al. J Am Coll Surg. 2012;214[3]:296-305). The authors analyzed data from 5171 patients in the VHA system who underwent major surgeries that were not emergencies or cardiac related. Patients who gave answers on a questionnaire that indicated they were high-risk drinkers spent nearly a day longer on average in the hospital and about 1.5 more days in the intensive care unit than patients who were classified as low-risk drinkers. But patients who were high-risk drinkers were not more likely to be readmitted within 30 days of discharge than patients who were low-risk drinkers.