The risks associated with preoperative alcohol misuse by patients before undergoing total joint arthroplasty are not well known, yet alcohol misuse by surgical patients is common and has been linked to an increased risk of complications after other procedures. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the association between a patient's preoperative standardized alcohol-misuse screening score and his or her risk of complications after total joint arthroplasty.Methods:
The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption (AUDIT-C) is an alcohol-misuse screening instrument administered annually to all patients receiving care through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The scores range from 0 to 12, with higher scores signifying greater and more frequent consumption. In a study of 185 male patients who had alcohol screening scores recorded in the year preceding surgery at a Palo Alto VHA facility, and who reported at least some alcohol use, we estimated the association between preoperative screening scores and the number of surgical complications in an age and comorbidity-adjusted regression analyses.Results:
Of the 185 patients reporting at least some drinking in the year before their total joint replacement, 17% (thirty-two) had an alcohol screening score suggestive of alcohol misuse; six of those thirty-two patients had one complication, four had two complications, and two had three complications. The screening scores were significantly related to the number of complications in a negative binomial regression analysis (exp[ß] = 1.29, p = 0.035), which demonstrated a 29% increase in the expected number of complications with every additional point of the screening score above 1, although with wide confidence intervals for the higher scores.Conclusions:
Complications following total joint arthroplasty were significantly related to alcohol misuse in this group of male patients treated at a VHA facility. The AUDIT-C has three simple questions that can be incorporated into a preoperative evaluation and can alert the treatment team to patients with increased postoperative risk. Preoperative screening for alcohol misuse, and perhaps preoperative counseling or referral to treatment for heavy drinkers, may be indicated for patients who are to undergo total joint arthroplasty.Level of Evidence:
Prognostic Level II. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.