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Will emergency and surgical patients participate in and complete alcohol interventions? A systematic review

Bolette Pedersen12*, Kristian Oppedal3, Lisa Egund4 and Hanne Tønnesen12

Author affiliations

1 WHO Collaborating Centre for Evidence-based Health Promotion in Hospitals and Health Services, Bispebjerg University Hospital, Copenhagen NV, Denmark

2 Clinical Alcohol Research, Faculty of Medicine, Lund University, Sweden

3 Alcohol and Drug Research Western Norway, Stavanger University Hospital, Stavanger, Research Unit for General Practice, Uni Health, Bergen, Norway

4 Orthopaedic Department, Skane University Hospital Malmö, Lund University, Sweden

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Citation and License

BMC Surgery 2011, 11:26  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-11-26

Published: 23 September 2011



In the everyday surgical life, staff may experience that patients with Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs) seem reluctant to participate in alcohol intervention programs. The objective was therefore to assess acceptance of screening and intervention as well as adherence to the intervention program among emergency department (ED) and surgical patients with AUDs.


A systematic literature search was followed by extraction of acceptance and adherence rates in ED and surgical patients. Numbers needed to screen (NNS) were calculated. Subgroup analyses were carried out based on different study characteristics.


The literature search revealed 33 relevant studies. Of these, 31 were randomized trials, 28 were conducted in EDs and 31 evaluated the effect of brief alcohol intervention. Follow-up was mainly conducted after six and/or twelve months.

Four in five ED patients accepted alcohol screening and two in three accepted participation in intervention. In surgical patients, two in three accepted screening and the intervention acceptance rate was almost 100%. The adherence rate was above 60% for up to twelve months in both ED and surgical patients. The NNS to identify one eligible AUD patient and to get one eligible patient to accept participation in alcohol intervention varied from a few up to 70 patients.

The rates did not differ between randomized and non-randomized trials, brief and intensive interventions or validated and self-reported alcohol consumption. Adherence rates were not affected by patients' group allocation and type of follow-up.


Most emergency and surgical patients with AUD accept participation in alcohol screening and interventions and complete the intervention program.