Teddy Septianto
Division of Anesthesiology, Department of Surgery, Cipto Mangunkusumo National General Hospital Indonesia (RSCM)


Introduction: More than half of patients with advanced disease have difficulty breathing, and this chronic breathlessness can be highly debilitating and challenging to manage. Opioids are the pharmacological drug that usually used for the palliation treatment of breathlessness, although their mechanism of action is still not completely known. This evidence based case report was written to prove that opioids has efficacy and safety to relieving breathlessness in patient with advanced disease.
Methods: We searched for literatures from several databases, which were: Pubmed, Cochrane Review, and Scopus with keywords: (opioid OR morphin) AND (breathlessness OR dyspnea) AND (advanced disease). The search was conducted on September, 27st 2018. The inclusion criteria were: human study, publication within the last 5 years, English language, randomized controlled trial, meta-analysis, and systematic review. The recruited literatures were appraised using clinical epidemiology and evidence based medicine (CEEBM) worksheet.
Results: Literature searching from three previously stated databases revealed only one article which were found to fulfill the inclusion criteria. From the review, for the primary outcome of breathlessness, the mean post-treatment dyspnoea score was 0.28 points better in the opioids group. The mean change from baseline dyspnoea score was 0.09 points better in the opioids group, but both of them have low quality evidence. From subgroup analysis, there is a strong treatment effect for morphine, with the mean post-treatment dyspnoea score was 0.32 points better in the opioid group compared to the placebo group. The mean change from baseline dyspnoea score was 0.18 points better in the opioids.
Conclusion: There is some low quality evidence that shows benefit for the use of oral or parenteral opioids to reliev breathlessness in advanced disease, although the number of included participants was small. In the sub group analysis, there is a strong treatment effect for morphine to reliev breathlessness. We found no evidence to support the use of nebulised opioids. Further research with larger numbers of participants, using standardised protocols and with quality of life measures included, is needed.

Published: 2020-02-05