Increased dangers present when prescribing opioids in hospitalized patients

Newswise Jul 05, 2019

Under the direction of West Virginia University School of Medicine's Dr. Sunil Sharma, a team of researchers found that 26% of high-risk patients with heart failure and undiagnosed sleep apnea who received opioids required urgent transfer to an intensive care unit (ICU) as opposed to only 4% of those not receiving opioids.

The study shines light on the lesser-known impacts of the opioid epidemic, including the impact of narcotics in hospitalized patients.

Quotes and comments

“Patients should be aware that when they are sick and hospitalized their bodies may not tolerate opioids/narcotics well, even if they have been taking them at home. When patients have heart failure and sleep apnea their breathing is compromised, and even small dose of opioids can push them in respiratory failure.”

“Physicians admitting patients with heart failure should be aware of the high prevalence of sleep apnea and screen these patients for the condition. Opioids should be avoided in these high-risk patients. If alternative medications do not work and opioids are necessary, respiratory support in terms of non-invasive ventilation and close monitoring with continuous measurement of oxygen levels in the blood should be considered.”

“A national awareness and education of both physicians and patients on the dangers of opioids lurking in the places we think are safe—like hospitals—will help improve patient safety and health-care costs by reducing escalation of care.”

—Dr. Sunil Sharma, WVU section chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine

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