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Anesthesiology. 2019 Jan;130(1):131-141. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000002492.

Analgesic Effects of Hydromorphone versus Buprenorphine in Buprenorphine-maintained Individuals.

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From The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baltimore, Maryland (A.S.H., E.C.S., G.E.B., M.T.S.) Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative, and Pain Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts (R.R.E.) University of California, San Francisco Department of Psychiatry, San Francisco, California (D.A.T.).



Managing acute pain in buprenorphine-maintained individuals in emergency or perioperative settings is a significant challenge. This study compared analgesic and abuse liability effects of adjunct hydromorphone and buprenorphine using quantitative sensory testing, a model of acute clinical pain, in persons maintained on 12 to 16 mg sublingual buprenorphine/naloxone.


Participants (N = 13) were enrolled in a randomized within-subject, double-blind, placebo-controlled three-session experiment. Each session used a cumulative dosing design with four IV injections (4, 4, 8, and 16 mg of hydromorphone or 4, 4, 8, and 16 mg of buprenorphine); quantitative sensory testing and abuse liability assessments were measured at baseline and after each injection. The primary analgesia outcome was change from baseline cold pressor testing; secondary outcomes included thermal and pressure pain testing, as well as subjective drug effects and adverse events.


A significant two-way interaction between study drug condition and dose was exhibited in cold pressor threshold (F10,110 = 2.14, P = 0.027) and tolerance (F10,110 = 2.69, P = 0.006). Compared to after placebo, participants displayed increased cold pressor threshold from baseline after cumulative doses of 32 mg of IV hydromorphone (means ± SD) (10 ± 14 s, P = 0.035) and 32 mg of buprenorphine (3 ± 5 s, P = 0.0.39) and in cold pressor tolerance after cumulative doses of 16 mg (18 ± 24 s, P = 0.018) and 32 mg (48 ± 73 s, P = 0.041) IV hydromorphone; cold pressor tolerance scores were not significant for 16 mg (1 ± 15 s, P = 0.619) or 32 mg (7 ± 16 s, P = 0.066) buprenorphine. Hydromorphone and buprenorphine compared with placebo showed greater ratings on subjective measures of high, any drug effects, good effects, and drug liking. Adverse events were more frequent during the hydromorphone compared with buprenorphine and placebo conditions for nausea, pruritus, sedation, and vomiting.


In this acute clinical pain model, high doses of IV hydromorphone (16 to 32 mg) were most effective in achieving analgesia but also displayed higher abuse liability and more frequent adverse events. Cold pressor testing was the most consistent measure of opioid-related analgesia.

[Available on 2020-01-01]

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