Cerebral uptake of morphine in the pig calculated from arterio-venous plasma concentration gradients: an alternative to tissue microdialysis

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The aim of this study was to characterize the reversible cerebral uptake of morphine in the pig by measuring the changing arterio-venous plasma concentration gradient over the brain. Seven pigs were anaesthetized by continuous infusions of ketamine and pancuronium and ventilated with oxygen in nitrous oxide. During and after 5-min intravenous infusions of morphine hydrochloride, blood samples were drawn from a central artery and from the internal jugular vein. Concomitantly, cerebral blood flow (CBF) was repeatedly measured as clearance of 133Xe from the brain after intracarotid injection. Plasma concentrations of morphine and, in samples from two animals, morphine glucuronides were assayed by high-performance liquid chromatography. Drug flux (Jnet) from arterial blood to brain was calculated from the arterio-venous plasma concentration gradients, the blood:plasma concentration ratio and CBF. Uptake of morphine from arterial blood to brain was very rapid, with a maximal Jnet typically at 3 min after the beginning of the infusion. The initial cerebral extraction of morphine was close to 50%. When the arterial and jugular venous concentration curves crossed, 1-5 min after the end of the infusion, the initially rapid uptake of morphine changed into a slow and steady release. The cerebral extraction of morphine glucuronides was comparable to that of morphine, however, Jnet was lower due to lower plasma concentrations at time of maximal extraction. The findings demonstrate how the cerebral uptake and release of morphine and its metabolites can be studied with a method that is entirely non-invasive to the brain and permits very flexible sampling. Uptake and release of drug is observed directly and need not be inferred from cerebral concentration curves.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Anesthesiology and Intensive Care


  • morphine glucuronides, morphine, arterio-venous concentration gradients, cerebral uptake, cerebral extraction
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2335-2345
JournalLife Sciences
Issue number25
Publication statusPublished - 1995
Publication categoryResearch