Nebulized morphine has been shown to act as effectively as morphine injections, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. Patients with advanced cancer usually are administered injected morphine to relieve dyspnea. The drug's effects are delayed, however, and they leave the patient feeling sedated. Inhaled morphine acts more quickly, is easier to administer, and may not produce the same sedating effects. The study team assessed 11 cancer patients who had rated their dyspnea intensity at least 3 out of 10. On day 1 of the study, patients received either injected morphine plus nebulized placebo or inhaled morphine plus injected placebo; then they switched on the second day. After receiving the injected morphine, the dyspnea intensity scores dropped from 5 to 3; after receiving the inhaled morphine, the intensity rating dropped from 4 to 2. Both results were significant and lasted about 4.5 hours. Patients reported feeling more sedated after receiving the injected morphine. Researchers concluded that their results justify further study.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.