Opioid crisis linked to rising heart infection rates, study finds

Heart infections linked to drug use have significantly increased nationwide, with the greatest increases occurring in the Midwest, reports a study published Sept. 18 in the Journal of the American Heart Association

The heart infection, known as infective endocarditis, occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream and sticks to the heart valve lining, and can be fatal. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic analyzed nearly 1 million infective endocarditis hospitalizations reported to the National Inpatient Sample Registry between 2002 and 2016. 

Hospitalization rates for heart infections linked to drug use nearly doubled, rising from 8 percent in 2002 to 16 percent in 2016, said study author Serge Harb, MD, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist, in a news release. Researchers found the hospitalized patients were more likely to be male, younger (with a median age of 38), Caucasian and on Medicaid. Compared to those with infective endocarditis not related to drug use, patients were also more likely to have HIV, hepatitis C, alcohol abuse problems, longer hospital stays and higher medical costs.

Drug overdoses have nearly tripled from 1999-2014, according to the CDC, with opioid-related overdose deaths increasing almost sixfold since 1999.

For the full Cleveland Clinic study, click here.  

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