Jan. 30 (UPI) -- People with heart disease who leave the hospital with opioid prescriptions have worse health outcomes, according to a new study.
Patients with heart disease who receive opioids prescriptions after leaving the hospital are less likely to return for follow-up treatment 30 days after discharge compared to patients who receive no prescription, according to research published Monday in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Within a 90-day window, patients who receive opioid prescriptions are also more likely to die.
"Hospital discharge provides a unique opportunity to evaluate each patient's medication regimen," Dr. Justin Liberman, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in a press release.
Researchers enrolled 2,495 patients between October 2011 and December 2015 as part of the Vanderbilt Inpatient Cohort Study, who were predominantly white males over age 60 and received treatment for heart attack, sudden heart failure or both. During that time, 20 percent of the patients went home with opioid prescriptions.
The researchers followed up with patients 2-3 days after hospital discharge, as well as at 30 days and 90 days after discharge. They found that if patients had received an opioid prescription, they were less likely to follow up with doctors or participate in rehabilitation and were slightly more likely to go to the emergency room, be readmitted to the hospital or die.
This can pose a potential danger because opioids are addictive and can cause other health problems. One study says opioids can increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
While the study did not proved the that opioids cause patients to skip follow-ups or experience other health events, they think the lack of physical activity, which is associated with opioid use, could be a reason for poor health among the patients.
"It's important for healthcare providers to understand the other ways that opioids may affect a patient's future interactions with the healthcare system," Liberman said.