UB researcher studies when it’s safe to discharge overdose patients

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A new study by a researcher at the University at Buffalo could help doctors decide when it is safe to release patients from the hospital after an overdose.

For the last few years thousands of people have been saved by Narcan, medication designed to reverse the effects of an overdose. Doctors, however, have been using their own judgment about when it is safe to discharge those patients.

Since 2000 doctors have worked under an early discharge rule that says patients can be released as early as one hour after being revived by Narcan, but that rule was never actually verified, until now.

“We always want to use evidence and as physicians if we can use standardized guidelines as opposed to our own gut, that’s always going to be better for our patients,” said Dr. Brian Clemency, associate professor at UB and an emergency medicine physician.

Dr. Clemency published the first of its kind study this month. He found that patients can be released from the hospital after one hour as long as they meet six criteria: walking normally, having a normal heart rate, temperature, respiratory rate, mental state and oxygen level.

“There is no clear standard used nationally right now. Everyone was doing this a little bit differently and we hoped through science we could find a single standardized approach that we could all use safely. This rule cannot be used at home, we don’t know if they are going to relapse again and require more medicine,” said Dr. Clemency.

Dr. Clemency says anyone revived by Narcan should always go to the hospital afterward. He says it could be the difference between life or death.

“The worry is that someone is home and alone and they pass back out again and they die.”

The six steps for safe release are being tested at four upstate hospitals, including ECMC and Buffalo General. If this works, Clemency hopes it will become the standard nationwide.

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