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Anesth Analg. 1999 Jan;88(1):109-16.

Cerebrospinal fluid and plasma concentrations of morphine, morphine-3-glucuronide, and morphine-6-glucuronide in patients before and after initiation of intracerebroventricular morphine for cancer pain management.

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  • 1School of Pharmacy, The University of Queensland, Australia.


Twenty-three patients treated with intracerebroventricular (ICV) morphine in this study not only obtained excellent pain relief without rapid increases in dose, but also experienced a reduction in morphine-related side effects. By 24 h after initiation of ICV morphine, the mean trough cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) morphine concentration (approximately 20 microM) was 50-fold higher than the baseline concentration (approximately 0.4 microM), and the CSF concentration of morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G) was undetectable (<0.01 microM). The mean CSF concentration of morphine-3-glucuronide (M3G) decreased 90%, from a baseline concentration of 1 microM to 0.1 microM by Day 7 postventriculostomy. Thereafter, the mean trough CSF M3G concentration remained relatively constant while ICV morphine was continued, although the concomitant M3G plasma concentrations were undetectable (<0.01 microM). The large increase in the CSF morphine concentration in patients receiving ICV morphine strongly suggests that increased CSF morphine levels are unlikely to be the primary cause of analgesic tolerance or undesirable excitatory side effects (hyperalgesia, myoclonus, seizures) experienced by some patients receiving chronic large-dose systemic morphine.


After initiation of intracerebroventricular morphine, cancer patients experienced excellent pain relief. Although the mean morphine concentration in cerebrospinal fluid increased 50-fold relative to preventriculostomy levels, rapid dose increases did not occur, which suggests that increased cerebrospinal fluid morphine levels are unlikely to be the main cause of analgesic tolerance.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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