Utility of phosphatidylethanol testing as an objective measure of alcohol use during the preoperative evaluation for bariatric surgery

Published:November 02, 2022DOI:


      • 15.3% of candidates were consuming alcohol at risky levels.
      • The majority with a positive PEth test denied recent alcohol use.
      • PEth testing may provide utility over self-reported alcohol use.



      The risk of alcohol use disorder increases after bariatric surgery. Preoperative alcohol use is a risk factor, and this is evaluated during the routine preoperative psychosocial evaluation. However, it is not clear whether patients accurately report their alcohol use.


      To determine whether an objective measure of alcohol use, phosphatidylethanol (PEth) testing, offers utility beyond self-reported alcohol use during the preoperative evaluation for bariatric surgery.


      Single healthcare system.


      PEth testing was included as part of the routine laboratory work for 139 patients undergoing evaluation for bariatric surgery. PEth testing results were compared with self-reported alcohol use and scores on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test–Concise (AUDIT-C) questionnaire obtained during the preoperative psychosocial evaluation. PEth testing results were categorized into abstinent, light use, moderate use, or heavy use. There were 85 patients who completed both PEth testing and a preoperative psychosocial evaluation.


      There were 25 participants (29.4%) who had a positive PEth test; about half had moderate or heavy use values (15.3% of the total sample). The majority of participants with a positive PEth test (82.6%) denied recent alcohol use. Of those with PEth values indicating moderate or heavy use, 61.5% did not have an elevated AUDIT-C score.


      Patients appeared to underreport their alcohol use during the preoperative psychosocial evaluation. There appears to be utility for routine PEth testing as part of the evaluation process to identify those with risky drinking patterns. Patients with preoperative risky drinking could be educated about their risk and/or referred to programs to mitigate the development of preoperative alcohol misuse.


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