Dosimetrically administered nebulized morphine for breathlessness in very severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A randomized, controlled trial

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMC Pulmonary Medicine, 2017, 17 (1)
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© 2017 The Author(s). Background: Systemic morphine has evidence to support its use for reducing breathlessness in patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The effectiveness of the nebulized route, however, has not yet been confirmed. Recent studies have shown that opioid receptors are localized within epithelium of human trachea and large bronchi, a target site for a dosimetric nebulizer. The aim of this study was to compare any clinical or statistical differences in breathlessness intensity between nebulized 2.0% morphine and 0,9% NaCl in patients with very severe COPD. Methods: The study was a double-blind, controlled, cross-over trial. Participants received morphine or NaCl during two 4-day periods. Sequence of periods was randomized. The primary outcome measure was reduction of breathlessness intensity now by ≥20 mm using a 100 mm visual analogue scale (VAS) at baseline, 15, 30, 60, 120, 180 and 240 min after daily administration, during normal activities. Results: Ten of 11 patients included completed the study protocol. All patients experienced clinically and statistically significant (p < 0.0001) breathlessness reduction during morphine nebulization. Mean VAS changes for morphine and 0.9% NaCl periods were 25.4 mm (standard deviation (SD): 9.0; median: 23,0; range: 14.0 to 41,5; confidence interval (CI): 95%) and 6.3 mm (SD: 7.8; median: 6.8; range: -11,5 to 19,5; CI: 95%), respectively. No treatment emergent adverse effects were noted. Discussion: Our study showed superiority of dosimetrically administered nebulized morphine compared to NaCl in reducing breathlessness. This may have been achieved through morphine's direct action on receptors in large airways, although a systemic effect from absorption through the lungs cannot be excluded. Trial registration: Retrospectively registered (07.03.2017), ISRCTN14865597
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