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Minerva Anestesiologica 2010 January;76(1):29-37


lingua: Inglese

Improving the detection of illicit substance use in preoperative anesthesiological assessment

Kleinwächter R., Kork F., Weiss-Gerlach E., Ramme A., Linnen H., Radtke F., Lütz A., Krampe H., Spies C. D.

Department of Anaesthesiology and Operative Intensive Medicine, Charité Universitätsmedizin, Berlin, Germany


AIM: Illicit substance use (ISU) is a worldwide burden, and its prevalence in surgical patients has not been well investigated. Co-consumption of legal substances, such as alcohol and tobacco, complicates the perioperative management and is frequently underestimated during routine preoperative assessment. The aim of this study was to compare the anesthesiologists’ detection rate of ISU during routine preoperative assessment with a computerized self-assessment questionnaire.
METHODS: In total, 2,938 patients were included in this study. Prior to preoperative assessment, patients were asked to complete a computer-based questionnaire that addressed ISU, alcohol use disorder (AUDIT), nicotine use (Fagerström) and socio-economic variables (education, income, employment, partnership and size of household). Medical records were reviewed, and the anesthesiologists’ detection of ISU was compared to the patients’ self-reported ISU.
RESULTS: Seven point five percent of patients reported ISU within the previous twelve months. ISU was highest in the age group between 18 and 30 years (26.4%; P<0.01). Patients reporting ISU were more often men than women (P<0.01), smokers (P<0.01) and tested positive for alcohol use disorder (P<0.01). Anesthesiologists detected ISU in one in 43 patients, whereas the computerized self-assessment reported it in one in 13 patients. The detection was best in the subgroup self-reporting frequent ISU (P<0.01).
CONCLUSIONS: Anesthesiologists underestimate the prevalence of ISU. Computer-based self-assessment increases the detection of ISU in preoperative assessment and may decrease perioperative risk. More strategies to improve the detection of ISU as well as brief interventions for ISU are required in preoperative assessment clinics.

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