Prescription Opioid Use in General and Pediatric Emergency Departments

Recent studies suggests exposure to emergency department opioids is associated with a higher risk of misuse. Pediatric emergency departments are generally thought to provide the highest-quality care for young persons, but most children are treated in general emergency departments. The researchers sought to determine if emergency departments opioid administration and prescribing vary between pediatric and general emergency departments.

Using a representative survey of emergency department visits, Michael Menchine, an associate professor of clinical emergency medicine at Keck School of Medicine of USC, and colleagues analyzed the proportion of patients under 25 years old who were administered an opioid, given a prescription for an opioid, or given in a prescription for a nonopioid analgesic in the emergency department. Another analysis focused just on the patients who were diagnosed with a fracture or dislocation. 

What they found:

  • 91% of patients in the sample were treated at general emergency departments.
  • The odds of being administered an opioid in the emergency department were similar in pediatric versus general emergency departments
  • Patients seen in pediatric emergency departments were less likely to receive an outpatient prescription for opioids than similar patients in general emergency departments.
  • The above held true for patients with fractures or dislocations.
  • Children, adolescents, and young adults had similar odds of being administered opioids while in the emergency department, they were much less likely to receive an opioid prescription from a pediatric emergency department compared with a general emergency department.

Click here to read a press release on the study and view the journal article here.