J Orthop Surg Res. 2022; 17: 323.

The use of intrathecal morphine for acute postoperative pain in lower limb arthroplasty surgery: a survey of practice at an academic hospital

Mpumelelo Sibanyoni,corresponding author Ntombiyethu Biyase, and Palesa Motshabi Chakane
Hip Knee

Background and purpose of the study

Intrathecal morphine (ITM) provides optimal postoperative analgesia in patients who are scheduled for total knee and hip operation with spinal anaesthesia. However, the ideal dose at which maximal analgesic effect occurs with minimal side effects is not known. This study aimed to describe the use of two doses of ITM and side effect profile in patients undergoing elective hip and knee arthroplasty.


This was a prospective, descriptive, and contextual study conducted on patients who had total hip and knee replacement at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital from 1 September to 30 November 2020. The sample size consisted of 66 patients who were 18 years and older, American Society of Anaesthesiology (ASA) classification 1–3, patients who had received either 100 mcg or 150 mcg ITM dose under spinal anaesthesia and sent to the ward postoperatively. Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) score was used to assess pain in the first 24 h, consumption of rescue analgesia and reported side effects were documented.


There was no relationship between age, weight, ASA classification or type of surgery and VAS score classification groups. Patients who received 100 mcg ITM had a higher median VAS pain score 2 (1–5) compared to those who received 150 mcg ITM 1 (0–2), p = 0.01. The need for rescue analgesia between the two groups was marginally less in the 150 mcg ITM group (p = 0.098). There was no difference in the rate of side effects between the 100 mcg ITM group [12 (41%)] and the 150 mcg ITM group [17 (59%)], p = 0.92. Rescue analgesia was marginally different between groups, p = 0.09. There were no real differences in the VAS pain scores between the total knee and total hip surgeries. None of the patients experienced clinically significant respiratory depression.


The 150 mcg ITM dose provided good analgesic effects with longer duration of action and comparable side effect profile to the 100 mcg ITM dose. This dose was not associated with development of respiratory depression and can therefore be administered safely to patients who are discharged to the ward postoperatively in a resource constraint environment.

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