Unintentional Opioid Ingestions Presenting to a Pediatric Emergency Department

Academic Article


  • OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to describe unintentional opioid exposures in young children, including demographics, medical interventions, and clinical outcomes. METHODS: This was a retrospective, cross-sectional study of children 0 to 6 years of age with possible opioid exposure over a 3-year period (July 2010 to June 2013). Data collected included sex, age, specific drug, whether they were referred to the emergency department (ED) by the Regional Poison Control Center, presence of symptoms, therapeutic interventions, ED disposition, and clinical outcomes for admitted patients. RESULTS: Median age of patients included in the study was 2 years, and 64% of these children were male. The most common drug of exposure was buprenorphine/naloxone. Of the 429 charts screened, 140 patients were reported to be symptomatic and referred to the ED, of which 113 patients actually presented to the ED. An additional 122 patients presented to the ED without Regional Poison Control Center referral. Of the total 235 patients presenting to ED, 76 (32%) received a therapeutic intervention. Of 231 total opioid exposures, 31 exposures were administered naloxone. Three children underwent endotracheal intubation. Sixty-five patients were hospitalized, with a median length of stay of 1 day. Although there were no fatalities, 1 child suffered severe morbidity (anoxic brain injury). CONCLUSIONS: While opioid exposures in young children are a common and potentially life-threatening problem, most children remain asymptomatic. The majority of patients are able to be discharged from the ED after observation, and of those who are admitted, most have favorable outcomes and brief hospital stays. A small number of these patients require considerable medical interventions.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Ghosh P; Pruitt C; Shah N; Kulkarni A; Slattery A; Nichols M
  • Start Page

  • 498
  • End Page

  • 501
  • Volume

  • 37
  • Issue

  • 10