Date of Publication


Faculty Mentor

Michael O'Keefe, Daniel Wolfson MD, Mario Trabulsy MD


Objective: Emergency Medical System (EMS) personnel administer the direct opioid antagonist naloxone in cases of opioid overdose via intramuscular (IM), intravenous (IV), subcutaneous (SQ), intraosseous (IO), or intranasal (IN) routes. Some early studies suggest that the intranasal route of administration is of similar effectiveness to injectable routes. The main objective of our study was to compare the efficacy of intravenous and intraosseous (IV/IO) routes of naloxone administration to the intranasal (IN) route in suspected opioid overdoses in Vermont.

Methods: We reviewed retrospective data from Vermont EMS Statewide Incident Reporting Network (SIREN) between April 2014 and August 2016. We included all patients that were entered into SIREN and administered naloxone during the study period. Predictor variables were route of administration, medication dosage, crew member level, and cardiac arrest (yes or no). We conducted a binary logistic regression in SPSS to predict improvement in patient condition.

Results: Our sample consisted of 1139 cases of first-dose naloxone administration. 1076 cases contained sufficient data to be analyzed. Patients who experienced a cardiac arrest were less likely to respond to naloxone (OR 10.8, 95% CI (5.908-19.694)). Route of administration, crew member level, and dosage (in the normal therapeutic range of 0.1-2mg) did not have a statistically significant effect on patient response to naloxone.

Conclusions: Our findings, in conjunction with other recent research, suggest that intranasal administration is a safe and effective route when compared with intravenous and intraosseous routes. Intranasal administration has several distinct advantages over injectable routes, including the potential to reduce the risk of needle-stick injuries and blood-borne pathogen transmissions and to be handled by individuals with less medical training. In cases of cardiac arrest, we recommend that providers focus on treatments with proven benefit, including CPR and proper ventilation and oxygenation.

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