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Growing proportion of cardiac arrests in U.S. considered opioid related



Patterns of opioid-induced cardiac arrests evolving

The patterns of opioid-induced cardiac arrest have changed and are likely to continue to change in response to the evolving opioid epidemic, according to the AHA scientific statement. The authors described three waves of opioid abuse. The first, which was related to the promotion of prescription opioids to treat chronic pain that ultimately led to high rates of opioid addiction, peaked in 2012 when rates of these prescriptions began to fall. At that time a second wave, attributed to patients switching to less expensive nonprescription heroin, was already underway. A third wave, attributed to growth in the use of synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, began in 2013 and is ongoing, according to data cited in the AHA statement.

Recognizing the role of opioids in rising rates of cardiac arrest is important for promoting strategies of effective treatment and prevention, according to Cameron Dezfulian, MD, medical director of the adult congenital heart disease program at Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston. Dr. Dezfulian was vice chair and leader of the writing committee for the AHA scientific statement on OA-OHCA. He said there are plenty of data to support the need for greater attention to the role of opioids in cardiac arrest.

“The recent data affirms the trends many of us have observed without our emergency rooms and ICUs: a steady increase in the proportion of OA-OHCA, primarily in young and otherwise healthy individuals,” he said.

He calls not only for more awareness at the front lines of health are but also for a more comprehensive approach.

“Public health policies and community- and hospital-based interventions are needed to reduce the mortality due to OA-OHCA, which is distinct from the traditional cardiac etiology,” Dr. Dezfulian said.

In opioid-induced cardiac arrest, as in other types of cardiac arrest, prompt initiation of cardiopulmonary resuscitation is essential, but early administration of the opioid antagonist naloxone can also be lifesaving, according to treatment strategies outlined in the AHA scientific statement. The fact that OA-OHCA typically occur in patients with structurally and electrophysiologically normal hearts is emphasized in the AHA statement. So is the enormous public health toll of OA-OHCA.

Death due to opioid overdose, which includes cardiac arrests, is now the leading cause of mortality in the U.S. among individuals between the ages of 25 and 64 years, according to the statement.

Ms. Malik reports no potential conflicts of interest. Dr. Dezfulian reports a financial relationship with Mallinckrodt.


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