Published: March 1, 2014

Patients who have abdominal surgery may want to think twice about taking morphine to treat their pain, according to findings in a CU-Boulder study.

bottle of pillsTaking morphine after abdominal surgery prolonged pain for weeks in a study on rats led by Peter Grace, a postdoctoral research fellow, and Erika Galer, a professional research assistant.

The team also found that both morphine and the surgery itself excited glial cells in the nervous system, causing them to send out additional pain signals to the surrounding nerves.

“What we are saying is, if you give rats morphine, we know that also contributes to pain,” Grace says. “If you’re putting both of those on top of each other, you’re going to have a prolonged period of pain.”

The team’s results echo other research done at CU-Boulder and elsewhere that morphine can work against itself, despite being an effective painkiller.

Read more about morphine for abdominal surgery.

Photography ©