Patient-controlled analgesia for mucositis pain in children: a three-period crossover study comparing morphine and hydromorphone

J Pediatr. 1996 Nov;129(5):722-8. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(96)70156-7.


Objectives: (1) To test the safety and efficacy of a clinical protocol for administering opioid by using patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) for the management of mucositis pain in children after bone marrow transplantation, (2) to compare the efficacy, side-effect profile, and potency ratio of morphine with those of hydromorphone by using PCA as the method of opioid administration, and (3) to obtain pharmacokinetic data on hydromorphone and morphine in this population of children.

Methods: In this double-blind, three-period crossover study, patients were randomly assigned to receive either morphine (group 1) or hydromorphone (group 2) initially by means of PCA on days 1, 2, and 3 (period 1), to be followed on days 4, 5, and 6 (period 2) with the alternative opioid, followed by the opioid used at the commencement of the study on days 7, 8, and 9 (period 3). A clinical protocol for calculating the PCA commencement opioid dose and subsequent opioid-dose escalation was tested by measures of safety and efficacy. Measures of pain intensity and opioid side effects were made during the three periods. On the last study day (day 10), patients received a continuous infusion of opioid derived from the previous 24-hour PCA opioid requirement, and blood specimens were collected and stored for subsequent opioid analysis.

Results: Ten patients were enrolled in this study. Rapid escalation in opioid requirement commonly occurred at the commencement of PCA, followed by a variable plateau phase and then deescalation of opioid requirement after mucositis resolution. The measures demonstrated the safety and efficacy of the clinical protocol. In the concentrations used, there was no statistical difference between the mean daily pain, sedation, nausea and vomiting, and pruritus scores for both opioids (Friedman test). The analysis of variance of the log-total opioid doses per patient during periods 1, 2, and 3 indicated that patients used 27% more hydromorphone than expected from its presumed 7:1 ratio relative to morphine potency used in the PCA infusions. The mean plasma hydromorphone concentration was 4.7 ng/ml (range, 1.9 to 8.9 ng/ml), and the mean clearance was 51.7 ml/min per kilogram of body weight (range, 28.6 to 98.2 ml/min per kilogram). The mean plasma morphine, morphine-6-glucuronide, and morphine-3-glucuronide concentrations were 40.0 ng/ml (range, 15 to 62.5), 168.2 ng/ml (range, 54.4 to 231.9), and 391.0 ng/ml (range, 149.4 to 921.7), respectively. The mean morphine clearance was 34.3 ml/min per kilogram of body weight (range, 19.3 to 58.3). The mean molar ratios of morphine-6-glucuronide/morphine, morphine-3-glucoronide/morphine, and morphine-3-glucuronide/morphine-6-glucuronide were 2.48 (range, 1.4 to 3.3), 5.82 (range, 3.4 to 9.1), and 2.46 (range, 1.1 to 3.3), respectively.

Conclusions: The safety and efficacy of a clinical protocol for the administration of opioids by means of PCA for mucositis pain after bone marrow transplantation was demonstrated. In this small study, hydromorphone was not superior to morphine in terms of analgesia or the side-effect profile: a larger study would be needed to show a difference. The clearances of hydromorphone and morphine in the children studied were generally greater than those previously recorded, but this finding may be related to disease or treatment variables. Apart from clearance, the morphine pharmacokinetics in the study population were similar to those previously recorded. Hydromorphone may be less potent in this population of children than indicated by adult equipotency tables.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analgesia, Patient-Controlled*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacokinetics
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Hydromorphone / adverse effects
  • Hydromorphone / pharmacokinetics
  • Hydromorphone / therapeutic use*
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Morphine / adverse effects
  • Morphine / pharmacokinetics
  • Morphine / therapeutic use*
  • Mucous Membrane*
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Therapeutic Equivalency
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Morphine
  • Hydromorphone