Colonic myoelectrical activity was studied in 25 patients, 18 of whom received morphine sulfate, using bipolar electrodes placed in the ascending and descending colon during laparotomy. Baseline myoelectrical activity was recorded daily, then morphine (3 to 15 mg) was administered intravenously, intramuscularly, or epidurally, and recordings continued. Seven activity patterns were observed during recovery from postoperative ileus. During the first 2 postoperative days, morphine at any dose did not affect colon myoelectrical activity. From the third postoperative day on, morphine given intravenously or intramuscularly initiated clusters of short, nonmigrating, phasic spike bursts occurring on each successive slow wave in 14 of 18 patients, which lasted for 30 to 45 minutes. When morphine was administered epidurally, there was no colonic response in any patient. These findings suggest that: (1) morphine intravenously or intramuscularly induces predominantly nonmigrating colonic spike bursts; (2) morphine-induced activity alters the normal pattern of colonic motility during recovery from postoperative ileus; and (3) these phenomena are not due to direct action of morphine on the spinal cord since epidural morphine had no effect.