Morphine for Refractory Dyspnea

This paper reports the findings of an exploratory study comparing morphine to placebo for patients with chronic refractory breathlessness. Study participants (N=65) were diagnosed with heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had moderately severe breathlessness on a dyspnea scale.

Morphine was preferred over placebo (43% for morphine versus 32% placebo and 25% no preference), however sedation and nausea may outweigh the benefit for some patients. Younger patients (Age< 70) preferred morphine more than older patients, which may be due to less nausea experienced by the younger group.

The study helps to support the use of morphine for breathlessness in patients with refractory dyspnea but reminds clinicians that addressing potential side effects of morphine is key to patient preference.

Link to Journal of Pain and Symptom Management (10/24/2015)