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CAGE Questionnaire as a Screening Tool for Hazardous Drinking in an Acute Admissions Ward: Frequency of Application and Comparison with AUDIT-C Questionnaire

Authors: Ammar Ayad Issa Al-Rifaie, Zuhreya Muazu, Maysam Ali Abdulwahid, Dermot Gleeson


The aim of this audit was to examine the efficiency of alcohol history documentation and screening for hazardous drinkers at the Medical Admission Unit (MAU) of Northern General Hospital (NGH), Sheffield, to identify any potential for enhancing clinical practice. Data were collected from medical clerking sheets, ICE system and directly from 82 patients by three junior medical doctors using both CAGE questionnaire and AUDIT-C tool for newly admitted patients to MAU in NGH, in the period between January and March 2015. Alcohol consumption was documented in around two-third of the patient sample and this was documented fairly accurately by health care professionals. Some used subjective words such as 'social drinking' in the alcohol units’ section of the history. CAGE questionnaire was applied to only four patients and none of the patients had documented advice, education or referral to an alcohol liaison team. AUDIT-C tool had identified 30.4%, while CAGE 10.9%, of patients admitted to the NGH MAU as hazardous drinkers. The amount of alcohol the patient consumes positively correlated with the score of AUDIT-C (Pearson correlation 0.83). Re-audit is planned to be carried out after integrating AUDIT-C tool as labels in the notes and presenting a brief teaching session to junior doctors. Alcohol misuse screening is not adequately undertaken and no appropriate action is being offered to hazardous drinkers. CAGE questionnaire is poorly applied to patients and when satisfactory and adequately used has low sensitivity to detect hazardous drinkers in comparison with AUDIT-C tool. Re-audit of alcohol screening practice after introducing AUDIT-C tool in clerking sheets (as labels) is required to compare the findings and conclude the audit cycle.

Keywords: cage, alcohol screening, AUDIT-C, hazardous drinking

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