Effects of low-dose morphine on gastric emptying in healthy volunteers

J Clin Pharmacol. 1998 Nov;38(11):1017-20. doi: 10.1177/009127009803801105.


Appropriate preoperative pain therapy for patients undergoing surgery may be withheld due to the fear that opioids will inhibit gastric emptying and increase the risk of aspiration. Previously, doses of 5 to 10 mg of morphine have been shown to delay gastric emptying time. However, the effect of lower doses of morphine on gastric emptying in humans has not been reported. In this study, the effects of intravenous morphine 0.05 mg/kg-3.5 mg for 70-kg body weight, a dose that can cause analgesia--on gastric emptying were evaluated in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study in 15 healthy human volunteers using the acetaminophen test. Our data indicated that this low dose of morphine significantly prolonged the gastric emptying time. Thus, even small doses of morphine inhibit gastric emptying. This effect may be important in patients undergoing surgery, in patients receiving other oral medications after surgery in ambulatory settings, and in instances of patient-controlled analgesia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / blood
  • Acetaminophen / pharmacokinetics
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / blood
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / pharmacokinetics
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morphine / pharmacology*


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Acetaminophen
  • Morphine