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Arch Surg. 2002 Nov;137(11):1217-22.

Care of injection drug users with soft tissue infections in San Francisco, California.

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Department of Surgery, San Francisco General Hospital, University of California 94110, USA.



Illicit injection drug use results in serious soft tissue infections that are the number one nonpsychiatric reason for admission to San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH), San Francisco, Calif.


To establish a specialized clinic to provide accessible, high-quality, and cost-effective medical care to patients with soft tissue infections. DESIGN, SETTING, INTERVENTION, AND OUTCOME MEASURES: The Integrated Soft Tissue Infection Services (ISIS) Clinic was established to provide coordinated surgical intervention, substance abuse counseling, and social services for patients with soft tissue infections treated in a public hospital. Demographic information, treatment outcome, and hospital utilization data were analyzed.


In the clinic's first year of operation, there were 3365 patient visits and 2255 surgical procedures. A large number of patients reported recent injection of illicit drugs (61%), were homeless (30%), and either had hepatitis C, hepatitis B, or human immunodeficiency virus infection (62%). Patients using heroin were enrolled in either a detoxification or maintenance program (42%). Few patients were designated as treatment failures (2%) or were lost to follow-up (14%). The ISIS Clinic dramatically reduced emergency department visits (-33.9%), surgical service admissions (-47.3%), inpatient acute care bed days (-33.7%), and operating room procedures (-71%), saving approximately $8 765 200 in the first year of operation.


This clinical intervention was notably cost-effective while preserving a high quality of medical services. Owing to limited data, we can only assume that other communities are similarly confronted with this public health problem. The ISIS Clinic could serve as a model intervention and thus have significant impact on the treatment of this prevalent but often overlooked challenge.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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