Metabolism and pharmacokinetics of morphine in neonates: A review.

Article Details


Pacifici GM

Metabolism and pharmacokinetics of morphine in neonates: A review.

Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2016 Aug;71(8):474-80. doi: 10.6061/clinics/2016(08)11.

PubMed ID
27626479 [ View in PubMed

Morphine is an agonist of the micro and k receptors, whose activation results in analgesia. Morphine-like agonists act through the micro opioid receptors to cause pain relief, sedation, euphoria and respiratory depression. Morphine is glucuronidated and sulfated at positions 3 and 6; the plasma concentration ratios correlate positively with birth weight, which probably reflects increased liver weight with increasing birth weight. Moreover, morphine clearance correlates positively with gestational age and birth weight. Steady-state morphine plasma concentrations are achieved after 24-48 hours of infusion, but the glucuronide metabolite plasma concentrations do not reach steady state before 60 hours. The morphine-3-glucuronide metabolite has lower clearance, a shorter half-life and a smaller distribution volume compared with the morphine-6 metabolite, which is the most active morphine-like agonist. Ordinary doses cause constipation, urinary retention and respiratory depression. Neonatal pain relief may require a blood level of approximately 120 ng/ml, whereas lower levels (20-40 ng/ml) seem adequate for children. A bibliographic search was performed using the PubMed database and the keywords "morphine metabolism neonate" and "morphine pharmacokinetics neonate". The initial and final cutoff points were January 1990 and September 2015, respectively. The results indicate that morphine is extensively glucuronidated and sulfated at positions 3 and 6, and that the glucuronidation rate is lower in younger neonates compared with older infants. Although much is known about morphine in neonates, further research will be required to ensure that recommended therapeutic doses for analgesia in neonates are evidence based.

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