Clearance of morphine in postoperative infants during intravenous infusion: the influence of age and surgery

Anesth Analg. 1998 May;86(5):958-63. doi: 10.1097/00000539-199805000-00008.


We analyzed morphine clearance values in infants receiving the drug by continuous i.v. infusion for analgesia after surgery, because we found lower steady-state morphine concentrations than we expected from our previous studies. Infants received morphine after a loading dose of 0.05 mg/kg and continuous infusion calculated to reach a steady-state concentration of 20 ng/mL. Blood was sampled twice on Postoperative Day 1 at times separated by at least 2 h, and morphine and morphine-6-glucuronide (M-6-G) concentrations were determined by high-performance liquid chromatography. Clearance of morphine was calculated as infusion rate divided by the steady-state morphine concentration. Morphine given to 26 infants by continuous i.v. infusion after major noncardiac surgery has rapidly increasing clearance values, from a median value of 9.2 mL x min(-1) x kg(-1) in infants 1-7 days old, 25.3 in infants 31-90 days old, and 31.0 in infants 91-180 days old to 48.9 in infants 180-380 days old. Adult clearance values are reached by 1 mo of age, more quickly than in infants of the same age previously studied who received morphine after cardiac surgeries. M-6-G was measured in all infants. The ratio of M-6-G to morphine concentrations was 1.9-2.1 in these infants, which is lower than ratios reported in older infants or adults by others, but higher than those reported in newborns. Infants with normal cardiovascular systems undergoing surgery clear morphine more efficiently than infants of the same age undergoing cardiac surgery.

Implications: Morphine removal from the body is slow in newborns but increases to reach adult values in the first months of life. Calculating the clearance of morphine from blood samples drawn during continuous i.v. infusions after surgery shows that this maturation occurs more quickly in infants undergoing noncardiac surgery (by 1-3 mo of age) than in those receiving morphine after cardiac surgery (by 6-12 mo of age).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacokinetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Morphine / administration & dosage
  • Morphine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Morphine