Background: Alcohol misuse is a common cause of liver disease, upper gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding, and pancreatitis, but it is not known whether alcohol screening questionnaires can identify patients at increased risk for hospitalizations due to these conditions.
Objective: To evaluate the association of alcohol screening scores with the risk of subsequent hospitalization for alcohol-related GI conditions.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Participants: Male general medicine outpatients from 7 Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers who returned mailed questionnaires.
Measurements: The CAGE questionnaire (0–4 points) and the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption questions (AUDIT-C; 0–12 points) were included on mailed surveys. The main outcome, “GI hospitalization,” was a primary VA or Medicare discharge diagnosis indicating liver disease, upper GI bleeding, or pancreatitis.
Results: Among 31,311 patients followed, a median of 3.75 years, patients with CAGE scores ≥2 points or AUDIT-C scores ≥6 points were at a significantly increased risk for GI hospitalizations. Adjusted hazard ratios (HRadj) ranged from 1.6 (95% CI 1.2–2.0) for CAGE score 2, to 1.7 (1.4–2.2) for CAGE 4, and from 1.4 (1.01–2.0) for AUDIT-C scores from 6 to 7, to 2.7 (1.9–3.8) for AUDIT-C scores from 10 to 12. Secondary analyses demonstrated that the association was the strongest among patients less than 50 years of age who reported drinking in the past year.
Conclusions: Brief alcohol screening questionnaires predict subsequent hospitalizations for alcohol-related GI conditions.