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Injection Drug Use Blamed for Rise in Heart Infections

Another facet of national opioid epidemic?

Another ripple effect of the country’s opioid drug problem is emerging, according to an article posted on the HealthLeaders Media website. There has been a significant increase in hospitalizations for infective endocarditis (IE)––a heart valve infection often attributed to injection drug use.

Using the Health Care and Utilization Project National Inpatient Sample (HCUP-NIS) data set, researchers at Tufts Medical Center and Tufts University School of Medicine investigated the rates of hospitalization for IE associated with injection drug use. They excluded cases of IE linked to congenital defects, and included cases of reported drug use and young patients with hepatitis C, which is a strong indicator of injection drug use.

The researchers found that the proportion of IE hospitalizations related to injection drug use increased from 7% (3,578 cases) in 2000 to 12% (8,530 cases) in 2013.

During this period, the authors also detected a significant increase in the percentages of IE hospitalizations associated with injection drug use among 15-to-34-year-olds (27% in 2000 to 42% in 2013; P < 0.001) and among whites (40% in 2000 to 69% in 2013; P < 0.001). Female gender was less common (41%) when all cases of injection drug use-related IE were examined, but it was more common in the 15-to-34-year-old age group (53%).

The study was published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases.

“As clinicians, we have observed a major increase in young people with opioid addiction cycling in and out of the health care system, and many end up with devastating complications of injection drug use, like infective endocarditis,” said first author Alysse Wurcel, MD. “Our study confirms that this trend is increasing across the U.S. and represents yet another indicator of the challenges we face with the national opioid epidemic.”

Sources: HealthLeaders Media; September 22, 2016; and Open Forum Infectious Diseases; Summer 2016.

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