Using morphine to fight the pain associated with abdominal surgery may paradoxically prolong a patient’s suffering, doubling or even tripling the amount of time it takes to recover from the surgical pain, according to researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The research team from CU-Boulder’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience — led by Peter Grace, a postdoctoral research fellow, together with Erika Galer, a professional research assistant — was able to identify the mechanism that caused the prolonged pain. The scientists found that both the morphine and the surgery itself excited glial cells in the nervous system, causing them to send out additional pain signals to the surrounding nerves.
The research findings, which involved a study using rats, are being presented today at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego.
“After abdominal surgery — even without using any drugs to treat the pain — the glial cells would be activated and they would contribute to the postoperative pain,” Grace said. “What we’re saying is, if you give them morphine, we also know that contributes to the pain. If you’re putting both of those on top of each other, you’re going to have a prolonged period of pain. (Bold added)
Clearly more than just glue
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