Alcoholics have a greater chance of infection following cardiac surgery

  • Long-term alcoholics are known to have a greater risk of disease and death following surgery.
  • A new study examines the risk of infection following elective cardiac surgery.
  • Results show that long-term alcoholics have a four-fold increased rate of postoperative infections, an increased length of need for mechanical ventilation, as well as a need for prolonged treatment in the intensive care unit.

Previous research has shown that post-surgery rates of disease and death are two-to-five times greater among long-term alcoholics than nonalcoholic patients. Of all the possible complications, infection can be the most serious. A study in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research finds that long-term alcoholics are at a higher risk for postoperative infections following elective cardiac surgery than nonalcoholic patients are.

"Other studies have shown that 20 to 30 percent of all patients admitted to a hospital are alcohol abusers," said Michael Sander, a researcher at Charit Hospital at the University of Berlin and corresponding author for the study. "The highest prevalence of this abuse is detected in the third to fifth decade of life. We also know that surgical complications can increase with the daily intake of 60 grams, which is about three glasses of beer or wine."

Alcohol is a drug, added Jan-Philipp Breuer, also a researcher at Charit Hospital at the University of Berlin. "And whether a drug is good or bad for you and your body depends as is the case with all drugs on the dose. You may treat your hypertension with beta-blockers to feel better, or you may kill yourself with them in an act of suicide it's all a matter of dose. Researchers recommend a low dose of alcohol, such as one glass of red wine per day, to prevent myocardial infarction but three bottles of beer per day has been proven to harm the body. In particular, it weakens the immune system, which every operat


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