Intensive care units in hospitals have seen a sharp increase in the number of opioid-related admissions and deaths since 2009, according to a study by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the demand for care relating to opioids has overwhelmed the available supply.
The team touted their study, which was published today in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, as the first to quantify the impact of opioid abuse on critical care resources.
Between the start of 2009 and September 2015, overdose-related ICU admissions jumped 34%, the researchers reported. The average cost of care per ICU overdose admission rose 58% from $58,517 in 2009 to $92,408 in 2015.
During that same period, opioid deaths in the ICU nearly doubled.
“This study tells us that the opioid epidemic has made people sicker and killed more people, in spite of all the care we can provide in the ICU, including mechanical ventilation, acute dialysis, life support and round-the-clock care,” lead author Dr. Jennifer Stevens said in prepared remarks.
The team used a national hospital database to analyze nearly 23 million hospital admissions. Of the four million adults who required acute care between 2009 and 2015, 21,705 patients were admitted into intensive care due to opioid overdoses.
The researchers noted that the mortality rates of overdose patients admitted to ICUs rose over the study period.
The team of researchers reported that their findings demonstrate the need for increased acute care resources and for expanded abuse prevention and treatment programs, also noting that most of the data they analyzed came from urban academic medical centers.
“The pace of the opioid epidemic continues to increase,” Stevens added. “Those of us who work in hospital intensive care units need to make sure we have the tools we need to help patients with opioid use disorders when they are at their sickest, because there doesn’t appear to be any end to this epidemic in sight.”