Novel associations between FAAH genetic variants and postoperative central opioid-related adverse effects

Pharmacogenomics J. 2015 Oct;15(5):436-42. doi: 10.1038/tpj.2014.79. Epub 2015 Jan 6.


Opioid effects are potentiated by cannabinoid agonists including anandamide, an endocannabinoid. Inter-individual variability in responses to opioids is a major clinical problem. Multiple deaths and anoxic brain injuries occur every year because of opioid-induced respiratory depression (RD) in surgical patients and drug abusers of opioids and cannabinoids. This study aimed to determine specific associations between genetic variants of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and postoperative central opioid adverse effects in children undergoing tonsillectomy. This is a prospective genotype-blinded observational study in which 259 healthy children between 6 and 15 years of age who received standard perioperative care with a standard anesthetic and an intraoperative dose of morphine were enrolled. Associations between frequent polymorphisms of FAAH and central postoperative opioid adverse effects including, RD, postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) and prolonged stay in Post Anesthesia Recovery Room (postoperative anesthesia care unit, PACU) due to RD and PONV were analyzed. Five specific FAAH single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) had significant associations with more than twofold increased risk for refractory PONV (adjusted P<0.0018), and nominal associations (P<0.05) with RD and prolonged PACU stay in white children undergoing tonsillectomy. The FAAH SNP, rs324420, is a missense mutation with altered FAAH function and it is linked with other FAAH SNPs associated with PONV and RD in our cohort; association between PONV and rs324420 was confirmed in our extended cohort with additional 66 white children. Specific FAAH polymorphisms are associated with refractory PONV, opioid-related RD, and prolonged PACU stay due to opioid adverse effects in white children undergoing tonsillectomy.

Trial registration: NCT01140724.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Amidohydrolases / genetics*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Arachidonic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Arachidonic Acids / adverse effects
  • Cannabinoids / agonists
  • Child
  • Drug Users
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / genetics
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / pathology
  • Endocannabinoids / administration & dosage
  • Endocannabinoids / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • HapMap Project
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / genetics*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / pathology
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / administration & dosage
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / adverse effects
  • Tonsillectomy / adverse effects*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase
  • anandamide

Associated data