Opioids for hospitalized seniors linked to negative outcomes

Seniors who receive opioids medications while hospitalized for non-surgical conditions could face a variety of negative health outcomes, a new study shows.

Researchers with New York's Northwell Health analyzed data from more than 10,000 senior patients who were admitted to the hospital over a one year period and found nearly 30% of them studied received opiates. Of those patients, almost 84% were “naïve” to their use — and just 12.5% had taken opioids before.

The group of patients prescribed opioids were found to be twice as likely to be restrained, and more likely to be ordered on bed rest, have a bladder catheter, or not receive nutrition by mouth than patients who did not receive the drugs. The opioid group also had 50% longer hospital stays on average, and were more frequently readmitted within 30 days.

The study was one of the first of its kind, researchers said. They called it incredibly relevant, with opioid misuse continuing to make headlines.

"The use of opiates, when warranted, is a necessary component for providing high-quality care in the hospital setting," said lead researcher Sutapa Maiti, M.D. “The real question is, should we be so quick to resort to opiates in patients who are elderly and naïve to opiates? Or should there be other ways to explore and tackle proper pain management?"

Maiti and her research team are scheduled to present their findings at the American Geriatrics Society Meeting, which is being held in San Antonio through the end of the week.