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Discharge prescribing of enteral opioids after initiation as a weaning strategy from continuous opioid infusions in the Intensive Care Unit

Bridgette Kram, PharmD, BCPS, BCCCP, Kylie M. Weigel, PharmD, BCPS, Michelle Kuhrt, PharmD, Daniel L. Gilstrap, MD


Objective: To evaluate the proportion of patients receiving a hospital discharge prescription for a scheduled enteral opioid following initiation as a weaning strategy from a continuous opioid infusion in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Design: Retrospective, observational study.

Setting: Five adult ICUs at a large, quaternary care academic medical center.

Patients: Endotracheally intubated, opioid-naive adults receiving a continuous opioid infusion with a concomitant scheduled enteral opioid initiated. Exclusion criteria were receipt of fewer than two enteral opioid doses, documentation of a long-acting opioid as a home medication, the indication for the enteral opioid was not a weaning strategy, death during hospital admission or discharge to hospice.

Interventions: None.

Main outcome measures: The proportion of ICU and hospital survivors who received a discharge prescription for a scheduled enteral opioid, total duration of continuous opioid infusion, duration of continuous opioid infusion after initiation of an enteral opioid therapy, total duration of enteral therapy, ICU and hospital length of stay.

Results: Of 62 included patients, 19 patients (30.6 percent) received a new prescription for a scheduled enteral opioid at hospital discharge. The median duration of enteral opioid therapy was longer for patients who received a discharge prescription compared to those who did not (20.09 vs 8.89 days, p = 0.02), though the remaining endpoints were not different.

Conclusions: Utilizing scheduled enteral opioids as a weaning strategy from continuous opioid infusions may place patients at risk of ICU-acquired physical dependence on opioids.


transitions of care, medication reconciliation, methadone, critical care, pain

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