Relationships between measurement of pain using visual analog score and morphine requirements during postoperative intravenous morphine titration

Anesthesiology. 2003 Jun;98(6):1415-21. doi: 10.1097/00000542-200306000-00017.


Background: Although intravenous morphine titration is widely used to obtain rapid and complete postoperative pain relief, the relationship between measurement of pain and morphine requirements varies, and the evolution of pain during titration is poorly understood.

Methods: Intravenous morphine titration was administered as a bolus of 2 (body weight < or = 60 kg) or 3 mg (body weight > 60 kg) during the immediate postoperative period in the PACU. The interval between each bolus was 5 min. The visual analog scale (VAS) score threshold required to administer morphine was 30, and pain relief was defined as a VAS score of 30 or less.

Results: Data from 3,045 patients were analyzed. The mean initial VAS score was 73 +/- 19 (mean +/- SD), and the mean morphine dose required to obtain pain relief was 0.17 +/- 0.10 mg/kg, i.e., a median of four boluses (range, 1-20). When patients were grouped according to several classes of initial VAS score (31-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, 80-89, 90-100), it seemed that the relationship between VAS score and morphine requirements was a sigmoid curve. A VAS score of 70 or greater predicted the need for a high (>0.15 mg/kg) morphine dose (sensitivity, 0.77; specificity, 0.54). During the pain relief process, the relationship between VAS score and time was depicted by a sigmoid curve.

Conclusion: A VAS score of 70 or greater should be considered indicative of severe pain. The relationship between the initial VAS score and morphine requirements is not linear, and the evolution of the VAS score during the pain relief process is described by a sigmoid curve.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morphine / administration & dosage*
  • Morphine / therapeutic use*
  • Pain Measurement*
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*
  • Pain, Postoperative / nursing
  • Pain, Postoperative / psychology*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Morphine