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Pediatric Opioid-Related Hospitalizations Increasing

March 13, 2018

A new study about some of the youngest victims of the opioid crisis shows the rate of children hospitalized in the U.S. for opioid-related concerns is increasing. Between 2004 and 2015, the number of pediatric intensive care admissions for opioid ingestion or overdose doubled despite national efforts to curb opioid use among adults.

Researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine released the study results, which were published in the journal Pediatrics. Study findings include:

  • During the study period, there were 3,647 opioid-related hospitalizations in 31 hospitals
  • Of the total hospitalizations related to opioids, 1,564 (43%) required treatment in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU)
  • The majority of cases involved children ages 12 to 17; 20 percent involved children under the age of six
  • One-third (37%) of children admitted to the PICU required respiratory support
  • A little more than 20 percent (20.3%) required treatment for life-threatening low blood pressure
  • The overall mortality was 1.6 percent, with deaths decreasing from 2.8 percent during 2004–2007, to 1.3 percent during 2012–2015

The study concluded that nationwide efforts to reduce adult misuse have not lessened the cases of ingestions among children; additional efforts will be needed to effectively slash the number of America’s young children directly affected by this public health crisis.

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Health and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs provided updates earlier this month about several continuing efforts to improve the opioid crisis. Governor Wolf also announced new efforts to streamline access to treatment for Pennsylvanians suffering from opioid use disorder.

During March and April, Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems will join representatives from the Wolf Administration to participate in a series of six warm hand-off regional meetings. These meetings will offer members of the hospital community opportunities to share best practices and discuss further collaboration with local service providers.

For more information about the hospital community’s efforts to address the opioid crisis, contact Michael Consuelos, M.D., senior vice president, clinical integration. For more information about HAP’s advocacy work, contact Jennifer Jordan, vice president, regulatory advocacy, or Stephanie Watkins, vice president, legislative advocacy.