BACKGROUND: Alcohol screening scores ≥5 on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption (AUDIT-C) up to a year before surgery have been associated with postoperative complications, but the association with postoperative health care use is unknown. This study evaluated whether AUDIT-C scores in the year before surgery were associated with postoperative hospital length of stay, total ICU days, return to the operating room, and hospital readmission. STUDY DESIGN: This cohort study included male Veterans Affairs patients who completed the AUDIT-C on mailed surveys (October 2003 through September 2006) and were hospitalized for nonemergent noncardiac major operations in the following year. Postoperative health care use was evaluated across 4 AUDIT-C risk groups (scores 0, 1 to 4, 5 to 8, and 9 to 12) using linear or logistic regression models adjusted for sociodemographics, smoking status, surgical category, relative value unit, and time from AUDIT-C to surgery. Patients with AUDIT-C scores indicating low-risk drinking (scores 1 to 4) were the referent group. RESULTS: Adjusted analyses revealed that among eligible surgical patients (n = 5,171), those with the highest AUDIT-C scores (ie, 9 to 12) had longer postoperative hospital length of stay (5.8 [95% CI, 5.0-6.7] vs 5.0 [95% CI, 4.7-5.3] days), more ICU days (4.5 [95% CI, 3.2-5.8] vs 2.8 [95% CI, 2.6-3.1] days), and increased probability of return to the operating room (10% [95% CI, 6-13%] vs 5% [95% CI, 4-6%]) in the 30 days after surgery, but not increased hospital readmission within 30 days postdischarge, relative to the low-risk group. CONCLUSIONS: AUDIT-C screening results could be used to identify patients at risk for increased postoperative health care use who might benefit from preoperative alcohol interventions.