Conference Coverage

Opioid use disorder up in sepsis hospitalizations



Individuals with opioid use disorder are more likely to be hospitalized for sepsis and die of sepsis, results of a recent retrospective analysis suggest.

Dr. Mohammad Alrawashdeh, Harvard Medical School, Boston Andrew D. Bowser/MDedge News

Dr. Mohammad Alrawashdeh

The prevalence of opioid use disorder (OUD) has significantly increased over the past 15 years, the analysis further shows.

Results of the study, presented at the Critical Care Congress sponsored by the Society of Critical Care Medicine, further suggested that OUD disproportionately contributes to sepsis deaths in younger, healthier patients.

Together, these findings underscore the importance of ongoing efforts to address the opioid epidemic in the United States, according to researcher Mohammad Alrawashdeh, PhD, MSN, a postdoctoral research fellow with Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston.

“In addition to ongoing efforts to combat the opioid crisis, future public health interventions should focus on increasing awareness, recognition, and aggressive treatment of sepsis in this population,” Dr. Alrawashdeh said in an oral presentation of the study.

This study fills an important knowledge gap regarding the connection between OUD and sepsis, according to Greg S. Martin, MD, MS, FCCM, professor of medicine in pulmonary critical care at Emory University, Atlanta, and secretary for the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

“We’ve not really ever been able to piece together the relationship between opioid use disorders and sepsis,” Dr. Martin said in an interview. “It’s not that people wouldn’t suspect that there’s a connection – it’s more that we have simply not been able to get the kind of data that you can use, like they’ve done here, that really helps you to answer that question.”

The study suggests not only that OUD and sepsis are linked, Dr. Martin added, but that health care providers need to be prepared to potentially see further increases in the number of patients with OUD seen in the intensive care unit.

“Both of those are things that we certainly need to be aware of, both from the individual practitioner perspective and also the public health planning perspective,” he said.


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