Alcohol Dependence Significant Problem for U.S. Surgeons

Surgeons who report major medical error more likely to exhibit alcohol abuse, dependence

TUESDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) -- A considerable number of U.S. surgeons have alcohol abuse and dependence, which is more likely in those who have recently reported major errors, are burned out, and are depressed, according to a study published in the February issue of the Archives of Surgery.

Michael R. Oreskovich, M.D., of the University of Washington in Seattle, and associates conducted a cross-sectional survey using data from 7,197 surgeons who completed an Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test to determine the point prevalence of alcohol abuse and dependence among practicing surgeons.

The researchers found that 1,112 (15.4 percent) of participants had test scores indicative of alcohol abuse or dependence, and the point prevalence was 13.9 percent for male surgeons and 25.6 percent for female surgeons. Surgeons who reported a major medical error in the preceding three months were significantly more likely to have alcohol abuse or dependence (odds ratio [OR], 1.45; P < 0.001), as were those who were burned out (OR, 1.25; P = 0.01) and depressed (OR, 1.48; P < 0.001). There was a strong correlation between the emotional exhaustion and depersonalization domains of burnout and alcohol abuse or dependence. There was a lower likelihood of alcohol abuse or dependence associated with male gender, having children, and working for the Department of Veteran Affairs.

"Alcohol abuse and dependence is a significant problem in U.S. surgeons," the authors write. "Organizational approaches for the early identification of problematic alcohol consumption followed by intervention and treatment where indicated should be strongly supported."

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