A 4-month prospective study of intravenous drug abusers attending an accident and emergency department was performed. A total of 92 patients presented with 104 new complaints. Seventy-eight per cent of patients were under 30 years of age and 28% were female. The primary reason for attendance was related to trauma in 30% of attendances, accidental or deliberate overdose in 26% and as a result of infection in 26%. A total of 37% of all attendances resulted in admission and two patients died in the department. Fifty-four patients (58%) had radioimmunoassay performed for hepatitis B markers and there was evidence of past or ongoing infection in 87% of these patients. Only three patients (5.6%) were HBsAg positive at the time of presentation. Accident and emergency staff should be made aware of the pattern of attendance of intravenous drug abusers and the particular problems they present.
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