Do Patients Require Emergency Department Interventions After Prehospital Naloxone?

J Addict Med. May/Jun 2020;14(3):224-230. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000563.


Objective: Patients receiving naloxone for suspected opioid overdose in the prehospital setting are typically transported to the emergency department (ED) for further evaluation, regardless of Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). The objective of our study is to determine whether patients with GCS ≥14 after receiving prehospital naloxone received additional doses of naloxone and medical interventions in the ED compared with those with GCS <14 after prehospital naloxone.

Methods: Our retrospective observational study included patients ≥18 years old treated with naloxone and transported by an inner-city hospital-based Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to its affiliated ED from January 2, 2016 to December 31, 2016. Investigators collected demographic data, prehospital interventions, GCS, ED interventions, and dispositions. Institutional Review Board approval was obtained. The main outcome measures were repeat doses of naloxone and ED interventions.

Results: In all, 473 patient encounters were reviewed. Most common route of prehospital naloxone administration was intranasal (68%). Nearly two-thirds (n = 473) of patients had GCS ≥14 upon ED arrival. Repeat naloxone was administered to 3.5% (n = 314) of patients with GCS ≥14 versus 14.6% (n = 159) of patients with GCS <14. ED interventions, such as airway maneuvers, laboratory and radiology testing, and cardiac monitoring, were less common among patients who had improved GCS of 14 or higher (n = 314). There were 8 deaths among patients with GCS <14 (n = 159) and no deaths among patients with GCS ≥14 (n = 314).

Conclusion: Patients with GCS score ≥14 after administration of prehospital naloxone are less likely to receive additional naloxone doses and medical interventions in the ED compared with those with a GCS score <14 after prehospital naloxone and may present an invaluable opportunity for the ED to initiate an addiction treatment program for patients with nonfatal overdose.