Some Hospitals May Not Be Training Staff on Correct Use of Dilaudid

There is evidence that shows the pain medication Dilaudid is being prescribed incorrectly and leading to overdoses and even addiction problems.

If physicians and medical professionals are getting the dosage wrong on Dilaudid, it might be because it is three to five times more potent than morphine. Dosing guidelines changed about eight years ago, but the drug is still being prescribed at the wrong dosage, according to Outpatient Surgery Magazine.

Pain management has become one of the more challenging aspects of the medical field and getting it wrong can create a host of new problems. “Overdosing has been complicated by an apparent lack of understanding by some physicians and nurses of what represents a safe dose,” wrote Dr. Howard Marcus in the December 2011 issue of the magazine. The drug also can create problems for people using other central nervous system depressants or alcohol, he wrote.

Patients with other health issues could also be at risk if they are given Dilaudid for pain management. Patients with sleep apnea, kidney disease or congestive heart failure all can have unintended reactions with Dilaudid, he noted.

A woman in New Mexico is suing a hospital because she had a dangerous reaction to DIlaudid while being treated for severe abdominal pain. The woman was obese and suffered from sleep apnea. She had a seizure during her sleep in the hospital and nurses barely made it in time to save her, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. The complaint alleged that the hospital did not adequately train its staff to monitor patients taking Dilaudid.

The drug is a hydromorphone painkiller used for moderate to severe pain. Dilaudid is a semi-synthetic derivative of morphine and is classified as both a narcotic and an opiate, according to the Promises Treatment Centers website. Doctors prescribe it as an alternative to morphine because it has fewer side-effects, but since it is considerably stronger, there is a potential for abuse.

Doctors commonly order a Dilaudid at a rate of one to four milligram IV, according to Dr. Marcus. That order is similar to eight to 32 milligrams of morphine. After dosing recommendations changed, the new Dilaudid dosages should be 0.2 to 0.6 milligrams every two to three hours.

One large hospital group stopped using other narcotics and started using Dilaudid exclusively with tight controls. By removing meperidine/promethazine, which is no longer a first-line analgesic, the hospital’s staff was required to keep track of fewer types of drugs, dosages, side effects and uses, according to Dr. Marcus. This resulted in lowering the risk of respiratory depression as a result of narcotics.

Families of patients who suspect they have been injured or killed as a result of getting the wrong dose of Dilaudid can contact an attorney who specializes in personal injury and wrongful death.

Robert Briskman is a Chicago wrongful death attorney and Chicago wrongful death lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit

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