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Am J Med. 2018 Jan;131(1):64-71.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2017.07.023. Epub 2017 Aug 12.

Opioid Drug Use and Acute Cardiac Events Among Pregnant Women in the United States.

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Department of Family and Community Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Tex. Electronic address:
Department of Family and Community Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Tex.
Department of Women, Children and Family Health Science, College of Nursing, University of Illinois, Chicago.
Department of Health Policy, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn.



Cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of pregnancy-associated deaths in the United States. The extent to which increasing opioid use among pregnant women contributes to fatal cardiovascular events is unknown. We examined trends in opioid use among pregnant women over the previous decade and the association between changes in temporal trends in opioid drug use and the incidence of acute cardiac events among mothers.


In this retrospective analysis of the Healthcare and Cost Utilization Project, we used a 2-stage stratified cluster sampling of all inpatient hospital discharges from nonfederal hospitals from January 1, 2002 through December 31, 2014. The study population comprised pregnant women aged 13-49 years and related hospitalizations, including delivery. The primary exposure of interest was opioid use during pregnancy. The primary outcome was the occurrence of acute myocardial infarction or cardiac arrest during pregnancy or childbirth.


Among the estimated 57.4 million pregnancy-related inpatient hospitalizations, 511,469 (approximately 1%) had documented use of opioids, cocaine, and/or amphetamines. There was a 300% increase in the use of opioids during pregnancy over the study period, whereas cocaine consumption significantly decreased and that of amphetamine remained stable. Over the 13-year period, the rise in opioid use paralleled a 50% increase in the incidence of acute cardiac events among mothers.


Over the previous decade opioid use during pregnancy increased significantly, in parallel with the rise in the incidence of acute cardiac events in pregnancy and childbirth. An effective national policy is needed to address this emerging public health challenge.


Cardiac arrest; Childbirth; Myocardial infarction; Opioid use; Pregnancy; Trends

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