Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can lead to serious risks during and after surgery if the physicians attending to the patient are unaware of the issue. The use of alcohol can lead to confusion, hallucinations, excessive bleeding and microbial infections as well as a host of other complications. This can lead to worsening health conditions, increased time in the hospital and the potential for fatal consequences.
On most healthcare intake forms, questions about drug and alcohol use are included. Many patients are honest on these questionnaires but oftentimes the information is either partially or wholly inaccurate. Patients frequently do not perceive their own drinking behavior as problematic, and those who drink excessively may greatly underestimate how much alcohol they actually consume. On the other hand, there are those individuals who are conscious that their drinking habits are unhealthy but are not ready to face the issue. These factors can lead to unnecessary complications when it’s time for problem drinkers to go under the knife.
Ohio State University (OSU) researchers interviewed hundreds of pre-surgical patients with a routine set of questions. Then post-surgery, the OSU team reviewed hospital records to see which patients suffered from delirium tremens, often called “the shakes,” which is caused by alcohol withdrawal. This condition increases the likelihood of post-surgical problems, including death, by three times.
Of the 774 surgical patients the OSU researchers studied, 11.5 percent of the cases involved post-operative delirium – which makes sense since alcoholism is thought to occur in roughly 10 percent of the general population.
After taking into consideration other causes for delirium in the patient’s medical history, the OSU team found two questions specifically that predicted with the best accuracy if someone was an alcoholic. Those two questions were:
Since there are no blood tests or physical exams that can test for alcoholism, it is crucial for effective patient care that intake forms and interviews are targeted to detect alcohol abuse in patients. The OSU patient intake forms now have the two questions above as a standard part of their admissions process.
Do you know someone with an alcohol problem who needs help? We can assist you in finding the best care for your loved one. We will connect you with top-notch treatment programs that will individualize a plan for your loved one’s specific needs. Don’t spend another day waiting for things to change. Pick up the phone and be the catalyst today.