Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Heart infection on the rise among intravenous drug users in Central Appalachia

Ohio Valley Resource graphic; click on it for large version
A rising number of intravenous drug users in Central Appalachia are contracting a form of heart infection called endocarditis that requires costly, repeated surgery, Mary Meehan reports for Ohio Valley Resource. The endocarditis rate has doubled in the past decade, leading to annual Medicaid spending on treatment of $700 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Endocarditis is a result of bacteria accumulating around and infecting a heart valve. It can appear initially as mild, flu-like symptoms or chest pains and extreme discomfort," Meehan writes. "Emergency surgery to replace heart valves is required in the most extreme cases, but standard treatment involves weeks of sustained doses of antibiotics to make sure the infection is completely cleared."

The CDC says "addicts with endocarditis are 10 times more likely than other patients to die or require a second surgery months after initially leaving the hospital," Meehan writes. "Research has also shown that addicts tend to leave the hospital more often before the weeks-long series of antibiotics that is necessary to complete treatment. In many cases, the patients are in withdrawal from opiate addiction during treatment." Dr. Saritha Gomadam, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Kentucky, told Meehan, "The intense atmosphere of post-surgery care only amplifies the anxiety and pain of withdrawal from opiates."

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