Morphine Increases Death Risk for Heart Patients

Study found chances of trouble go up by almost 50 percent

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WEDNESDAY, Nov. 10, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Using morphine to reduce chest pain in heart attack patients may increase the risk of death by nearly 50 percent, says a Duke University study.

Researchers analyzed clinical data and outcomes of more than 57,000 high-risk heart attack patients. Of those, 29.8 percent received morphine within the first 24 hours after they were admitted to a hospital.

The study found the death rate for patients who received morphine was 6.8 percent, compared to 3.8 percent for patients who received nitroglycerine for their chest pain.

The findings were presented Wednesday at the American Heart Association's scientific sessions in New Orleans.

"The results of this analysis raise serious concerns about the safety of the routine use of morphine in this group of heart patients," Duke cardiologist Dr. Trip Meine said in a prepared statement.

"Since randomized clinical trials evaluating the safety or effectiveness of morphine for these patients have not been conducted, official guidelines for its use are based solely on expert conjecture. Given the adverse outcomes associated with morphine use found in our analysis, a randomized clinical trial is in order," Meine said.

Until a clinical trial is conducted, Meine and his colleagues recommend that cardiologists first use sufficient doses of nitroglycerine to relieve pain in heart attack patients before resorting to morphine.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about morphine.

SOURCE: Duke University, news release, Nov. 10, 2004

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