• Alcohol alcohol problems;
  • emergency department;
  • intervention;
  • meta-analysis


Aims  To critique the methodological adequacy of evaluations of emergency department (ED)-based interventions for alcohol problems and to conduct a meta-analysis to examine the extent to which interventions in this setting are effective in reducing alcohol consumption and related harm.

Methods  An electronic search of 11 databases and a manual search of reference lists were conducted to identify studies published in peer-review journals between January 1996 and July 2007 (inclusive). Studies evaluating the outcome of an intervention designed to reduce alcohol problems in patients presenting to the ED were eligible for inclusion. Methodological data were extracted using review criteria adapted from the both the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Guide to Community Preventive Services Data Collection Instrument and the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organization of Care Review Group Data Collection Checklist. Continuous outcomes were pooled using a fixed effect inverse variance approach while binary outcomes were pooled in a generic inverse variance meta-analysis.

Results  Thirteen studies were identified for inclusion in the review. Methodological quality was found to be reasonable, with the exception of poor reporting of effect-size information and inconsistent selection of outcome measures. Meta-analyses revealed that interventions did not significantly reduce subsequent alcohol consumption, but were associated with approximately half the odds of experiencing an alcohol-related injury (odds ratio = 0.59, 95% confidence interval 0.42–0.84).

Conclusions  There are few evaluations of emergency department-based interventions for alcohol problems. Future evaluations should use consistent outcome measures and report effect sizes. The existing evidence suggests that interventions are effective in reducing subsequent alcohol-related injuries.