Increases in fatal drug poisonings and hepatitis C infections associated with the opioid epidemic are relatively well defined, because passive surveillance systems for these conditions exist. Less described is the association between the opioid epidemic and skin, soft-tissue, and venous infections (SSTVIs), endocarditis, sepsis, and osteomyelitis.
Michigan hospitalizations between 2016 and 2018 that included an International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification, code indicating substance use were examined for codes indicative of infectious conditions associated with injecting drugs. Trends in these hospitalizations were examined, as were demographic characteristics, discharge disposition, payer, and cost data.
Among hospitalized patients with a substance use diagnosis code, endocarditis, osteomyelitis, sepsis, and SSTVI hospitalizations increased by 33%, 35%, 24%, and 12%, respectively between 2016 and 2018. During this time frame, 1257 patients died or were discharged to hospice. All SSTVI hospitalizations resulted in >$1.3 billion in healthcare costs. Public insurance accounted for more than two-thirds of all hospitalization costs.
This study describes a method for performing surveillance for infection-related sequelae of injection drug use. Endocarditis, osteomyelitis, sepsis, and SSTVI hospitalizations have increased year over year between 2016 and 2018. These hospitalizations result in significant morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs and should be a focus of future surveillance and prevention efforts.

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