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US Hospitalizations and Costs for Illicit Drug Users with Soft Tissue Infections

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Skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) are common complications of illicit drug use. Studies at single, urban hospitals demonstrate high rates of emergency department visits and hospitalizations for these infections. This study sought to estimate nationwide and regional incidence and costs of hospitalizations for illicit drug users with SSTIs in the US. AHRQ’s Nationwide Inpatient Sample was used to conduct a retrospective cross-sectional, time-series study. Hospitalizations of illicit drug users with SSTIs were identified using International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision Clinical Modification codes. An estimated 106,126 hospitalizations for illicit drug users with SSTIs represented 0.07% of all US non-Federal hospitalizations from 1998 to 2001 and cost over 193 million dollars in 2001. Higher rates of hospitalization were found in the West, Northeast, and urban teaching hospitals. Hospitalization rates for illicit drug users with SSTIs vary significantly according to US region. Resources to reduce the incidence and severity of these infections should be targeted accordingly.

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Correspondence to Traci A. Takahashi MD, MPH.

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The research reported in this paper was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA #RO3DA14518) and the Health Services Research and Development Service and the Seattle Epidemiologic Research and Information Center of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Research and Development, Seattle, WA. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the University of Washington, or Duke University. This study was presented as a poster at the Society of General Internal Medicine 28th Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, May 11–14, 2005. Dr. Takahashi is a staff physician at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. Dr. Maciejewski is an investigator at the Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Bradley is an investigator in Health Services Research and Development, Primary and Specialty Medical Care, and the VA Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and Education (CESATE) at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.

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Takahashi, T.A., Maciejewski, M.L. & Bradley, K. US Hospitalizations and Costs for Illicit Drug Users with Soft Tissue Infections. J Behav Health Serv Res 37, 508–518 (2010).

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