This is a study comparing 3 EDs in my homeland of CT and their (mis)use of opiates for headaches over a 14 month period. This compared an academic tertiary care center with an approximate 110,000 annual patient volume; an urban hospital with an approximate 85,000 patient annual volume, and a community ED that sees approximately 19,000 patients annually. A total of 1,222 visits were included for final analysis.
Results? Opiates, are not good, mmmmkay?
Patients given opioids as first line treatment had a 37.7% increase in visits over the study period compared to those who were not given opioids. If you were given opioids as first line, 36.0% required rescue treatment compared to 25.1% in those who were not given opioids. Strangely, female patients were significantly more likely to have opioids ordered than male patients (38.2% vs 24.2%).
Need more reason not to give opiates? Patients not given opioids had a 30.3% reduction in length of stay.
I’m surprised these numbers are so high. As a community EM AP, I’m embarrassed at these numbers – A shocking 58% of headaches in a community setting were given opiates as first line compared to 6.9% of those at the academic center). Then again, opiates beget opiates. Opiates lead to repeat visits, more rescue meds, and an increased length of stay, without an improvement in patient satisfaction with opiates. I question how often those in the community ED just gave opiates to avoid conflict.
Just. Stop. Giving. Opiates. For. Headaches. NOW.