A Comparison of the Effects of Intravenous Tramadol, Codeine, and Morphine on Gastric Emptying in Human Volunteers

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We compared the effects of IV tramadol (1.25 mg/kg), codeine (1 mg/kg), morphine (0.125 mg/kg), and saline on gastric emptying in 10 healthy human volunteers using a double-blind, randomized, cross-over design. Subjects received one treatment at each of four sessions, 2 wk apart. Gastric emptying was studied using the paracetamol absorption test. There were significant differences when comparing all treatments for concentration-time data (P = 0.002), peak serum paracetamol concentrations (Cmax; P < 0.001), times at Cmax (Tmax; P = 0.003), and areas under the curves from Time 0 to 360 min (AUC0-360; P = 0.049). Morphine profoundly inhibited gastric emptying. Tramadol had measurable but statistically insignificant inhibitory effects on gastric emptying compared with saline (mean +/- SEM: Cmax 22.4 +/- 2.2 vs 26.8 +/- 2.5 mg/L [P = 0.19], Tmax 33 +/- 5.4 vs 19.5 +/- 2.3 min [P = 0.054] for tramadol versus saline, respectively). Compared with morphine, the Cmax (P < 0.01), Tmax, and AUC0-360 (P < 0.05) values for tramadol were significantly different. The Tmax value for codeine (63.3 +/- 11.7) was greater than that for tramadol (P = 0.034). We conclude that tramadol has a measurable but smaller inhibitory effect on gastric emptying compared with other opioids. Implications: We compared the effect of tramadol, an unconventional opioid painkiller, on stomach emptying with that of codeine and morphine in a human volunteer study. Tramadol had a measurable but smaller effect and may have clinical and economic advantages in acute pain management compared with conventional painkillers.(Anesth Analg 1998;87:445-9)

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