Ischemic Hand Complications From Intra-Arterial Injection of Sublingual Buprenorphine/Naloxone Among Patients With Opioid Dependency.

Journal: Hand (New York, N.Y.)

Background: Sublingual buprenorphine/naloxone, a common treatment for opioid dependence, is frequently abused by intravenous injection. Inadvertent intra-arterial injection of buprenorphine/naloxone can produce acute ischemic insult to the hand due to gelatin embolism. Our purpose was to review a series of these patients in order to describe the clinical entity, review the outcomes, and propose a rational treatment algorithm.

Methods: Clinical records of all patients evaluated by the hand surgery team between 2011 and 2015 for ischemia of the hand after buprenorphine/naloxone injection were reviewed. Treatment, complications, and amount of tissue loss were recorded. Patients presenting within 48 hours of the injection were treated with intravenous heparin for 5 days, followed by oral aspirin and clopidogrel for 30 days. Those presenting after 48 hours were treated with aspirin and clopidogrel only.

Results: Ten patients presented during the review period. Average follow-up time was 13 weeks. Eight had ischemia of the radial side of the hand, 1 of the ulnar side, and 1 had bilateral ischemia. Three patients were treated with intravenous heparin and 5 with oral agents. Two presented with dry gangrene and did not receive anticoagulation. All patients experienced tissue loss. There was no difference in outcome regardless of treatment.

Conclusions: With the increasing use of sublingual buprenorphine/naloxone in opioid dependency, ischemic hand injuries will be seen with greater frequency. Whereas outcomes did not vary with treatment modality in this series, further study is needed to determine the most effective treatment of these injuries.

Relevant Conditions

Opioid Use Disorder, Gangrene