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A cross-sectional study of emergency department visits by people who inject drugs
  1. Campbell Aitken1,2,
  2. Thomas Kerr3,4,
  3. Matthew Hickman5,
  4. Mark Stoové1,2,
  5. Peter Higgs1,2,5,
  6. Paul Dietze1,2
  1. 1Centre for Population Health, Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3Urban Health Research Initiative, British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  4. 4St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  5. 5School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  6. 6The Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity in Society, University of New South Wales, Darlinghurst, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Paul Dietze, Centre for Population Health, Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health, PO Box 2284, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia; pauld{at}


Background People who inject drugs (PWID) have worse health than non-injectors and are at heightened risk of incidents that necessitate hospital emergency department (ED) visits.

Study objectives To describe ED visits by PWIDs in Melbourne, Australia, and compare reasons with those given in Vancouver, Canada.

Methods In 2008–2010, 688 Melbourne PWIDs were interviewed about their ED visits; these data were contrasted with published data about ED visits by PWIDs in Vancouver.

Results Participants reported 132 ED visits in the month preceding interview—27.3% drug-related, 20.5% trauma-related (principally physical assault), 13.6% for psychiatric problems. Melbourne PWIDs are less likely to attend ED for soft-tissue injuries, and more likely to attend after physical assault than PWIDs in Vancouver.

Conclusion PWID in Melbourne and Vancouver attend EDs for different reasons; information about PWID visits can help EDs cater for them and provide insights for prevention.

  • Hospital emergency service
  • drug user
  • epidemiology
  • drug abuse
  • infectious diseases
  • viral
  • research
  • epidemiology
  • HIV

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  • Funding The authors gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of MIX participants, project funding from the Colonial Foundation and Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council, and the contribution to this work of funding provided to the Burnet Institute by the Victorian Operational Infrastructure Support Program.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent All study participants read a comprehensive information sheet and gave informed consent, including to their data being published in aggregated form in scientific journals.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Our ethics approval restricts data access to the investigators and staff named on the grant.