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QuickStats: Percentage of Emergency Department (ED) Visits for Pain* at Which Opioids Were Given or Prescribed, by Patient Age and Year — National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 2005–2016


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The figure is a line graph showing that the percentage of ED visits for pain with an opioid given or prescribed for those aged <18 years was stable from 2005 to 2011 but decreased from 2011 to 2016, from 14.3% to 8.5%. Among those aged 18–44 years and 45–64 years, the percentage increased from 2005 to 2010 but then decreased from 2010 to 2016. There was no significant change in opioid prescribing for visits for pain by adults aged ≥65 years, with 38.1% of visits including an opioid in 2016. The percentage of ED visits for pain with an opioid was lower for visits by children compared with adults, with adults aged 45–64 years having the highest percentage (43.8%) in 2016.

* Based on a sample of visits to EDs in noninstitutional general and short-stay hospitals, exclusive of federal, military, and Veterans Administration hospitals, located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Pain-related visits were defined using up to three reasons for visit coded according to the National Center for Health Statistics Reason for Visit Classification (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_02/sr02_078.pdf) and grouped using an algorithm (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1149438).

Visits in which at least one opioid was given in the ED or prescribed at discharge were analyzed. Opioids were defined using the Cerner Multum (https://www.cerner.com/solutions/drug-database) third level therapeutic category codes for narcotic analgesics (60) and narcotic analgesic combinations (191). Visits with only buprenorphine or buprenorphine-naloxone given or prescribed were not included.

The percentage of ED visits for pain with an opioid given or prescribed for those aged <18 years was stable from 2005 to 2011 but decreased from 2011 to 2016 from 14.3% to 8.5%. Among those aged 18–44 years and 45–64 years, the percentage increased from 2005 to 2010 but then decreased from 2010 to 2016. There was no significant change in opioid prescribing for visits for pain by adults aged ≥65 years, with 38.1% of visits including an opioid in 2016. The percentage of ED visits for pain with an opioid was lower for visits by children compared with adults, with adults aged 45–64 years having the highest percentage (43.8%) in 2016.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics. National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 2005–2016. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/ahcd/ahcd_questionnaires.htm.

Reported by: Susan M. Schappert, MA, sschappert@cdc.gov, 301-458-4480; Pinyao Rui, MPH; Jill J. Ashman, PhD; Carol J. DeFrances, PhD.

Suggested citation for this article: QuickStats: Percentage of Emergency Department (ED) Visits for Pain at Which Opioids Were Given or Prescribed, by Patient Age and Year — National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 2005–2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:1400. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6750a6.

For more information on this topic, CDC recommends the following link: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/providers/index.html.

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