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An audit of intrathecal morphineanalgesia for non-obstetric postsurgical patients in an adult tertiary hospital

Department of Anaesthesia, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


We conducted a retrospective audit of adult non-obstetric patients who had received a single dose of intrathecal morphine for postoperative analgesia. These patients were predominantly admitted to a regular postsurgical ward with strict hourly nursing observations, treatment protocols in place and supervision by an Acute Pain Service for the first 24 hours after intrathecal morphine administration. A total of 409 cases were examined for sedation score, incidence of respiratory depression and other side-effects, admission to the high dependency or intensive care unit and opioid-tolerance. Respiratory depression was defined as requiring treatment with naloxone (implying a sedation score of 3 irrespective of respiratory rate), or a sedation score of 2 with a respiratory rate less than six breaths per minute. The patients were predominantly elderly (57.2% were over the age of 70 years) and 84.8% had undergone vascular surgery. Of the total of 409 cases, only one case of respiratory depression was observed. A total of 77 patients were admitted to high dependency or intensive care unit for various reasons including management of postsurgical complications and patient co-morbidities. Our findings suggest that elderly patients who receive intrathecal morphine analgesia can be safely managed in a regular postsurgical ward.

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