Heavy Drinking Raises Surgery Risks

By Bryan Le 03/15/12

Heavy drinkers spend longer in the hospital after surgery—and are more likely to face complications.

Give yourself a better chance.

Drinking and surgery don't mix—for patients, as well as the surgeons. Patients who drink heavily have longer post-surgery hospital stays and are more likely to make a return trip to the operating room, indicates a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. Researchers asked surgery patients to complete a questionnaire on their drinking habits over the previous year; the answers given were compared with each patient's surgery complications and results. It turns out that high-risk drinkers spend 1.5 days longer in intensive care on average and one day more in the hospital, and are twice as likely to have to return to the operating room compared with low-risk drinkers. "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," concludes lead author Anna D. Rubinsky, PhC. Previous studies have shown that 16% of men undergoing major surgery have misused alcohol in the past year. More positively, another previous study of people who consume more than four drinks daily found that ceasing all drinking a month prior to surgery cuts the risk of complications in half.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter