Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 31, Issue 7, pp 955–958 | Cite as

Prognosis of cocaine body-packers

  • Nicolas de Prost
  • Aurélie Lefebvre
  • Frank Questel
  • Nicolas Roche
  • Jean-Louis Pourriat
  • Gérard Huchon
  • Antoine RabbatEmail author



To study the prognosis and complications of cocaine body-packing (concealment of cocaine in the body for transportation between countries).


We retrospectively reviewed the files of all cocaine body-packers hospitalized during a 4-year period in a medico-judiciary emergency unit. Subjects included in the survey were identified from the hospital databases using ICD-10 codes.


The Medico-Judiciary Emergency Unit of Hôtel-Dieu university hospital in Paris is a unique medical and surgical emergency unit receiving all patients in legal custody arrested at the two Paris international airports and suspected of body-packing.


All the cases of cocaine body-packers (n=581) hospitalized between January 1999 and December 2002 were studied. They had been arrested at Paris airports while arriving from drug-producing countries.


The mean number of carried packets was 70.0±20.4 (range 18–150). The mean duration of hospitalization was 5.0±1.6 days (range 1–18). No complication occurred in 573 body-packers cases. Eight subjects developed a complication requiring admission to an intensive care unit: six acute cocaine intoxications due to packet rupture and two intestinal occlusions. No one died. Surgical treatment was necessary in six cases.


Good prognosis observed in these body-packers cases is due to the careful monitoring of asymptomatic patients, allowing early detection and treatment of complications. Surgical removal of the packets when complication occurs is warranted.


Cocaine Intoxication Body-packing Intensive care Monitoring 

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicolas de Prost
    • 1
  • Aurélie Lefebvre
    • 1
  • Frank Questel
    • 2
  • Nicolas Roche
    • 1
  • Jean-Louis Pourriat
    • 2
  • Gérard Huchon
    • 1
  • Antoine Rabbat
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Respiratory and Intensive Care UnitHôtel-DieuParisFrance
  2. 2.Medico-Judiciary Emergency DepartmentHôtel-DieuParisFrance

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