The influence of alcohol and tobacco use in orthopaedic inpatients on complications of surgery

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Williams, G, Daly, M, Proude, EM, Kermode, S, Davis, M, Barling, J & Haber, PS 2008, 'The influence of alcohol and tobacco use in orthopaedic inpatients on complications of surgery', Drug and Alcohol Review, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 55-64.

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Introduction and Aims. Tobacco use and heavy alcohol consumption are associated with increased morbidity and mortality. There is limited research on the correlation between tobacco and risky levels of alcohol use and the possible complications associated with a hospital admission. The underestimation of problem drinking, in particular, has obvious repercussions for the management of patients in hospital. If alcohol-related problems go undetected or unrecorded, treatment may be inadequate or inappropriate. The aims of the project were to assess the prevalence of high-risk alcohol and tobacco use in orthopaedic in-patients and to examine any relationship between alcohol and tobacco use and the number and type of complications, management and length of stay. Design and Method. One hundred and fifty-three consecutive orthopaedic admissions to the Orthopaedic Ward at Lismore Base Hospital were screened using the Drinkcheck questionnaire, which is based on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), but which also screens for tobacco use. Nursing staff on the ward completed a Complications Evaluation Questionnaire (CEQ). The risk status of the subjects was compared to the number and type of complications, to assess any effects of alcohol and tobacco on post-surgical complications. Results. Significant correlations were found between tobacco use, hazardous and harmful alcohol use and numerous medical complications and behavioural problems. Behavioural problems associated with risky alcohol use included verbal abuse, agitation and sleep disturbances, particularly in men; problems associated with tobacco use included agitation and non-compliance. Discussion and Conclusions. Orthopaedic patients who smoke and/or drink heavily prior to surgery may have more non-medical complications than non-smokers and light or non-drinkers. All surgery patients should thus be screened for alcohol and tobacco use and alcohol withdrawal, which may cause other symptoms such as behavioural problems, non-compliance and verbal abuse post-surgery.

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