Use of intravenous morphine for acute decompensated heart failure in patients with and without acute coronary syndromes

Acute Card Care. 2011 Jun;13(2):76-80. doi: 10.3109/17482941.2011.575165.


Background: Current guidelines regarding the use of intravenous morphine (IM) in the management of patients with acute decompensated heart failure (ADHF) are discordant; whereas the American guidelines reserve IM for terminal patients, the European guidelines recommend its use in the early stage of treatment. Our aim was to determine the impact of IM on outcomes of ADHF patients.

Methods: Stepwise logistic regression and propensity score analysis of ADHF patients with and without use of IM was performed in a national heart failure survey.

Results: Of the 4102 enrolled patients, we identified 2336 ADHF patients, of whom 218 (9.3%) received IM. IM patients were more likely to have acute coronary syndromes, acute rather than exacerbation of chronic heart failure, and diabetes mellitus and dyslipidemia. They had higher heart rate, were less likely to receive diuretics and more likely to receive aspirin and statins. Unadjusted in-hospital mortality rates were 11.5% versus 5.0% for patients who did or did not receive IM, and the adjusted odds ratio (OR) for in-hospital death was: 2.0 (1.1 – 3.5, P = 0.02). Using propensity analysis, we identified 218 matched pairs of patients who did or did not receive IM. In multivariable analysis accounting for the propensity score (c-statistic 0.82), IM was not associated with increased in-hospital death (OR: 1.2 (0.6 – 2.4), P = 0.55).

Conclusion: IM was used sparingly in our ADHF cohort, and was independently associated with increased in-hospital death in multivariable analysis, but not in propensity score analysis. Thus, IM may be used in ADHF, but with caution. Further randomized trials are warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / mortality
  • Acute Disease
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Heart Failure / drug therapy*
  • Heart Failure / mortality
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Morphine / therapeutic use*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Morphine