When it comes to Opioids, More May Be Less

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Peter Grace PhD
Professor in the Department of Critical Care Research
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
He was a NHMRC Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Colorado Boulder in the lab of Prof Linda Watkins

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Opioids are effective for managing pain after surgery. However, we previously showed that opioids like morphine can have unexpected long-term effect when used to treat nerve pain in rats: just 5 days of morphine treatment shortly after nerve injury doubled the duration of pain (Grace et al., 2016; PNAS). Our current study shows that something similar happens in post-operative pain. When we gave daily morphine for a week after exploratory abdominal surgery (laparotomy), the postoperative pain lasted more than twice as long compared to rats that didn’t receive morphine at all.

We also showed that the prolonged pain was correlated with immune signaling in the spinal cord, similar to what we showed in our previous study (Grace et al., 2016; PNAS). Importantly, this suggests that the long-term pain caused by morphine could be blocked while retaining short-term analgesia by inhibiting immune activation. MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: We’re reporting that opioids can prolong postoperative pain in a rat model for longer than previously thought. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: A critical next step is to test whether our report in rats relates at all to humans, by testing whether opioid use around the time of surgery correlates to the length of post-operative pain.

No disclosures 


Peter M. Grace, Erika L. Galer, Keith A. Strand, Kaci Corrigan, Debra Berkelhammer, Steven F. Maier, Linda R. Watkins. Repeated Morphine Prolongs Postoperative Pain in Male Rats. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 2018; 1 DOI: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000003345 

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Last Updated on April 25, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD