• Vol. 35 No. 7, 487–491
  • 15 July 2006

Complications Relating to Intravenous Buprenorphine Abuse: A Single Institution Case Series



Introduction: We present a retrospective descriptive study of cases admitted to Tan Tock Seng Hospital from March 2005 to October 2005 with complications of Subutex abuse.

Clinical Picture: A total of 8 patients were studied. Of the 8, 7 were male and one was female. Their complications consist of the following: arterial pseudoaneurysm (2), arterial pseudoaneurysm with infective venous thrombus (1), infective venous thrombus (1), venous thrombus (2), end arterial spasms (1) and sympathetic dystrophy (1).

Treatment: For the patient who presented with buprenorphine-associated neuropathy, non-operative treatment with analgesics was given. Conservative medical therapy involving deep venous thrombosis treatment was instituted for the patient with deep venous thrombosis. Repair, restorative bypass and embolectomy surgery were performed for patients who had severe embolic/thrombotic complications. One of the patients who received the above surgery required amputation of his lower limb.

Outcome: Of the 8 patients, 4 were treated medically, 3 required surgery and 1 required amputation. Their recoveries were uneventful. Of the 8, 1 absconded and was not followed up with.

Conclusion: Parenteral injection of buprenorphine can cause a wide range of vascular complications from simple vascular irritation to severe infective thrombosis and pseudoaneurysms requiring limb amputations. Non-sterile preparation of an injected substance or non-sterile injection sites and the repeated punctures of major vessels are possible culprits in those who are seen to have acute infection of injection sites.

Buprenorphine, more commonly known as Subutex (Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals), has been released in Singapore since 2002. Initially marketed as an opiate substitute to help addicts wean off their dependence, it has another formulation, Suboxone, which additionally contains naloxone as an active ingredient.

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