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Older adults and high-risk medication administration in the emergency department

Authors Kim M, Mitchell SH, Gatewood M, Bennett KA, Sutton PR, Crawford CA, Bentov I, Damodarasamy M, Kaplan SJ, Reed MJ

Received 6 June 2017

Accepted for publication 10 September 2017

Published 8 November 2017 Volume 2017:9 Pages 105—112

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/DHPS.S143341

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Akshita Wason

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Hemalkumar Mehta


Mitchell Kim,1 Steven H Mitchell,1 Medley Gatewood,1 Katherine A Bennett,2 Paul R Sutton,3 Carol A Crawford,4 Itay Bentov,5 Mamatha Damodarasamy,2 Stephen J Kaplan,6 May J Reed2

1Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Washington, 2Division of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, 3Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, 4School of Pharmacy, University of Washington, 5Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Washington, 6Section of General, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery, Department of Surgery, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA, USA

Background: Older adults are susceptible to adverse effects from opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and benzodiazepines (BZDs). We investigated factors associated with the administration of elevated doses of these medications of interest to older adults (≥65 years old) in the emergency department (ED).
Patients and methods: ED records were queried for the administration of medications of interest to older adults at two academic medical center EDs over a 6-month period. Frequency of recommended versus elevated (“High doses” were defined as doses that ranged between 1.5 and 3 times higher than the recommended starting doses; “very high doses” were defined as higher than high doses) starting doses of medications, as determined by geriatric pharmacy/medicine guidelines and expert consensus, was compared by age groups (65–69, 70–74, 75–79, 80–84, and ≥85 years), gender, and hospital.
Results: There were 17896 visits representing 11374 unique patients >65 years of age (55.3% men, 44.7% women). A total of 3394 doses of medications of interest including 1678 high doses and 684 very high doses were administered to 1364 different patients. Administration of elevated doses of medications was more common than that of recommended doses. Focusing on opioids and BZDs, the 65–69-year age group was much more likely to receive very high doses (1481 and 412 doses, respectively) than the ≥85-year age groups (relative risk [RR] 5.52, 95% CI 2.56–11.90), mainly reflecting elevated opioid dosing (RR 8.28, 95% CI 3.69–18.57). Men were more likely than women to receive very high doses (RR 1.47, 95% CI 1.26–1.72), primarily due to BZDs (RR 2.12, 95% CI 2.07–2.16).
Conclusion: Administration of elevated doses of opioids and BZDs in the older population occurs frequently in the ED, especially to the 65–69-year age group and men. Further attention to potentially unsafe dosing of high-risk medications to older adults in the ED is warranted.

Keywords: emergency department, older adults, administration, NSAIDs, benzodiazepines, opioids

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