The Needle and the Damage Done: A retrospective review of the health impact of recreational intravenous drug use and the collateral consequences for Vascular Surgery

Caitlin MacLeod (Lead / Corresponding author), Yashika Senior, Jun Lim, Devender Mittapalli, Nikolas Rae, Graeme Guthrie, Stuart Suttie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The UK has one of the highest rates of recreational drug use and consequent deaths in Europe. Scotland is the "Drugs death capital of Europe." Intravenous drug use can result in limb- and life-threatening pathology. This study aimed to characterise limb-related admissions associated with intravenous drug use, outcomes and healthcare expenditure.

Methods: Retrospective data collection between December 2011-August 2018. Patients were identified through discharge codes. Admission details were extracted from electronic records and a database compiled. Statistical analyses were performed using Statistical Package for the Social Science, p<0.05 denoted significance.

Results: There were 558 admissions for 330 patients (1-9 admissions/patient), mean age 37 years (+/-7.6 SD) and 196 (59.2%; 319 admissions, 57.2%) were male. 348 (62.4%) admissions were to surgical specialties, predominantly Vascular Surgery (247). Including onward referrals, Vascular ultimately managed 54.8% of admissions. Patients presented with multiple pathologies: 249 groin abscesses; 38 other abscesses; 74 pseudoaneurysms; 102 necrotising soft tissue infections (NSTI); 85 cellulitis; 138 DVTs; 28 infected DVTs and 70 other diagnoses. 277 admissions (220 patients) required operations, with 361 procedures performed (1-7 operations/admission). There were 24 major limb amputations and 74 arterial ligations. 11 amputations were due to NSTI and 13 followed ligation (17.6% of ligations). During follow-up 50 (15.2%) patients died, of which six (12%) had amputations (OR 3.2, 95% CI 1.04-9.61, p=0.043). Cumulative cost of acute care was £4,783,241.

Conclusion: Limb-related sequalae of intravenous drug use represents a substantial surgical workload, especially for Vascular. These are complex, high-risk patients with poor outcomes and high healthcare costs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Vascular Surgery
Early online date30 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • Intravenous substance abuse
  • Necrotizing fasciitis
  • Pseudoaneurysm
  • Amputation
  • Ligation
  • Infections

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