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Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1980 Jul;28(1):106-14.

Intravenous fentanyl kinetics.


Fentanyl is considered to be a short-acting narcotic analgesic but prolonged and recurrent ventilatory depression has been reported. We examined fentanyl kinetics and excretion in 7 healthy male subjects who were given a 3.2- or 6.4-micrograms/kg dose of 3H-fentanyl intravenously. Arterial blood and urine samples were analyzed for unchanged fentanyl and total radioactivity. Fentanyl concentrations fell rapidly and 98.6% of the dose was eliminated from plasma in 60 min but the terminal elimination phase of fentanyl from the body was slow (t1/2 beta = 219 min) due to the slow return of the unchanged drug from a peripheral compartment to the central compartment where elimination occurred primarily by biotransformation. Eighty-five percent of the dose was recovered in urine and feces in 72 hr; less than 8% was recovered as unchanged fentanyl. There were fluctuations in plasma fentanyl levels during the elimination phase in all cases. The long t1/2 beta and fluctuations in plasma levels may contribute to prolonged and recurrent ventilatory effects of fentanyl.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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