From the Journals

A quarter of ICU admissions caused by substance abuse



Nearly a quarter of resources used by the intensive care unit (ICU) are for substance abuse-related admissions, according to results from a retrospective chart review.

Door to the ICU Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock

The abuse of illicit drugs topped substance abuse–related ICU stays, accounting for 13% of total admissions, which represented 11% of total charges.

“We conducted a study to provide updated data on ICU utilization and costs related to licit and illicit abuse at a large county hospital,” wrote Donald Westerhausen, MD, of Indiana University, Indianapolis, and colleagues. The findings were reported in Chest .

The single-center study comprised 594 patients who were admitted for prescription, alcohol, or illicit drug use between May 2017 and October 2017. The team used laboratory data, in addition to medical history, to define substance abuse–related admissions.

A total of 611 admissions occurred during the 6-month study period. The researchers collected information on patient demographics, hospital charges, insurance coverage, and other clinical parameters.

After analysis, they found that patients admitted for substance abuse were generally younger than were those admitted for other reasons (44 years vs. 59 years; P less than .001). In addition, patients were more often male (64% vs. 48%), had greater mortality (14%), and experienced longer hospital stays (median, 6 days).

In total, 25.7% of ICU admissions were related to substance abuse, which comprised 23.1% of charges. In particular, 9.5% and 2.9% of admissions were related to alcohol use and prescription drugs, which represented 7.6% and 4.2% of total charges, respectively.

“Polysubstance abuse was the most frequent subcategory of illicit and prescription drug admissions,” the researchers wrote.

They acknowledged two limitations of the study: the short duration and single-center design. Future studies should account for seasonal differences in ICU admissions, they noted.

“Identifying and accurately describing the landscape of this current health crisis will help us take appropriate action in the future,” they concluded.

No funding sources were reported. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Westerhausen D et al. Chest. 2019 Sep 5. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2019.08.2180.

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