Morphine-augmented hepatobiliary scintigraphy in the severely ill: caution is in order

Radiology. 1990 May;175(2):467-73. doi: 10.1148/radiology.175.2.2109335.


Morphine augmentation in hepatobiliary scintigraphy has been reported as a useful tool to shorten imaging time. The technique has not been extensively evaluated in patients who are severely ill and receiving total parenteral nutrition, although the study of these patients with non-morphine-augmented hepatobiliary scintigraphy is problematic. The authors retrospectively analyzed 51 morphine-augmented hepatobiliary studies performed in a tertiary referral center on a population with a high proportion of severe intercurrent illness (18 patients, 14 of whom were receiving total parenteral nutrition) and hepatocellular dysfunction (eight patients). The overall sensitivity was 94%, specificity was 69%, and the false-positive rate was 40% for the diagnosis of acute cholecystitis. The majority of the false-positive cases occurred in the severely ill subgroup (false-positive rate, 60%). Morphine-augmented hepatobiliary studies may be advantageous because of shortened imaging time. However, patients who have severe intercurrent illness, whether or not they are receiving total parenteral nutrition, have a higher frequency of false-positive morphine-augmented hepatobiliary studies, and positive findings at scintigraphy in this patient group should be interpreted with caution.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biliary Tract / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cholecystitis / complications
  • Cholecystitis / diagnostic imaging*
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morphine / administration & dosage*
  • Morphine / pharmacology
  • Parenteral Nutrition, Total
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sphincter of Oddi / drug effects


  • Morphine