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Anaesthesia. 2009 Jun;64(6):643-51.

Risks and side-effects of intrathecal morphine combined with spinal anaesthesia: a meta-analysis.

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Department of Anaesthesiology, Intensive Care Medicine and Pain Therapy, Klinikum Kassel, Kassel, Germany.


Intrathecal morphine is often used for postoperative analgesia after surgery. We performed a meta-analysis to obtain more detailed information on the frequency of side-effects in patients receiving intrathecal morphine in combination with spinal anaesthesia compared with placebo treated patients. We clustered the analysis to patients receiving placebo, less than morphine 0.3 mg (M < 0.3), or equal to or more than morphine 0.3 mg (M > or = 0.3) and calculated the risk ratios of morphine vs placebo. Twenty-eight studies investigating 46 morphine groups vs placebo were included. A total of 790 patients with intrathecal morphine and 524 patients who received placebo were analysed. Compared with placebo the lower dose of morphine resulted in an increase of nausea (RR 1.4, 95% CI 1.1-1.7), vomiting (RR 3.1, 95% CI 1.5-6.4) and pruritus (RR 1.8, 95% CI 1.4-2.2). The higher dose resulted in an increased risk ratio for pruritus (RR 5.0, 95% CI 2.9-8.6), but not nausea (RR 1.2, 95% CI 0.9-1.6) or vomiting (RR 1.3, 95% CI 0.9-1.9). Overall, intrathecal morphine did not increase respiratory depression. However, the higher dose of intrathecal morphine was associated with more episodes of respiratory depression (7/80) compared with the lower dose (2/247). Intrathecal morphine is associated with a mild increase in side-effects. With a dose < 0.3 mg we found there were no more episodes of respiratory depression than in placebo patients who received systemic opioid analgesia.

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