In patients with biliary type pain after cholecystectomy, morphine often precipitates pain and may induce rises in plasma concentrations of liver enzymes because of exaggerated or prolonged rises in intrabiliary pressure. In this study, changes in plasma concentrations of catecholamines and histamine were determined after the administration of morphine in patients with and without a two-fold or greater rise in the plasma concentration of aspartate aminotransferase at four hours. Those showing rises in aminotransferase had higher concentrations of noradrenaline at 40 and 60 minutes after morphine and higher concentrations of dopamine at 40 minutes after morphine. The two groups had similar concentrations of adrenaline and histamine. Attempts to inhibit rises in aminotransferase after morphine by pretreatment with histamine, serotonin and alpha-receptor blockers were largely unsuccessful, although inhibition was observed with phenoxybenzamine in two of five patients. Higher plasma concentrations of noradrenaline and dopamine before and soon after induction of pain in patients showing rises in aminotransferase are consistent with sympathetic activation but heterogeneity appears to exist in the response to alpha-receptor blockade.
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