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Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 1997 Jan;41(1 Pt 1):12-7.

Long-term intrathecal infusion of morphine in the home care of patients with advanced cancer.

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Montpellier Cancer Institute Val d'Aurelle, France.



Fear of infections and other complications has made many clinicians avoid intrathecal application of morphine in chronic cancer pain. However, recent comparative studies show that, in long-term treatment, intrathecal morphine administration may give a more satisfactory pain relief with lower doses of morphine and fewer side-effects than epidural administration. In Montpellier Cancer Institute, first cancer pain patients received long-term intrathecal morphine as early as in 1979, and since then more than 400 patients have been treated.


In 1991-1994, 50 patients having refractory cancer pain were treated with a continuous intrathecal infusion of morphine using an external pump with patient-controlled boluses. In this retrospective study, the outcome of these 5602 days of morphine therapy will be analysed. The treatment consisted of a lateral puncture technique, strictly aseptic conditions during catheter insertion and changes of pump reservoirs, and effective prevention of side-effects.


The average duration of intrathecal infusion was 142 (7-584) days. The mean starting dose, 2.5 (0.4-8.3) mg/day, increased to a mean final dose of 9.2 (1-94) mg/day, the average dose being 5.4 (1-23) mg/day. During the treatment period, no clinically detectable infections and no respiratory depression occurred. Leakage of cerebrospinal fluid followed by post-spinal headache occurred in only 6 patients who received a temporary external catheter: the lateral lumbar puncture technique seemed to protect from this complication in long-term treatment. The patients stayed at home, coming to agreed control visits only at 4-6 week intervals, using a telephone-telefax service for emergencies.


Long-term intrathecal morphine infusion seems to provide satisfactory analgesia, few side-effects and a high degree of patient autonomy.

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