Fundamental & clinical pharmacology

Relationships between plasma concentrations of morphine, morphine-3-glucuronide, morphine-6-glucuronide, and intravenous morphine titration outcomes in the postoperative period.

PMID 20825489


Although intravenous morphine titration (IMT) is widely used to control moderate to severe postoperative pain, the relationships between plasma concentrations of morphine and its metabolites, morphine-3-glucuronide (M3G) and morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G), and IMT outcomes in the postanesthesia care unit (PACU) have not been yet investigated. IMT was administrated as a bolus of 2 or 3 mg every 5 min. Titration was interrupted in case of pain relief (visual analog score ≤30), adverse events, sedation, or failure of morphine titration. Blood samples were collected at the end of morphine titration to determine plasma concentration of morphine and its two metabolites. Data from 214 patients were analyzed; 143 (67%) of the patients achieved complete pain relief, 39 (18%) experienced adverse events, and 32 (15%) failure of morphine titration. At the end of titration, there were no significant differences in morphine, M6G, M3G concentrations between sedated and nonsedated patients (32 vs. 42 ng/mL (P = 0.07), 38 vs. 45 ng/mL (P = 0.51), 300 vs. 342 ng/mL (P = 0.29), respectively), or patients with or without adverse events (40 vs. 41 ng/mL (P = 0.95), 37 vs. 46 ng/mL (P = 0.51), 287 vs. 340 ng/mL (P = 0.72), respectively). Our study demonstrated a lack of relationship between plasma concentrations or ratios of morphine, M3G, and M6G, with IMT outcomes in PACU. This result suggests that the kinetics of morphine and its metabolites have limited value for explaining clinical effects of morphine in this clinical setting.