The effects of morphine on the recovery of horses from halothane anaesthesia

Louise Clark, R. Eddie Clutton, Karen J. Blissitt, Margo E. Chase-Topping

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective To investigate the effects of peri-operative morphine on the quality and duration of recovery from halothane anaesthesia in horses.

Study design Prospective randomized study.

Animals Twenty-two client owned horses, ASA category I or II.

Methods Horses undergoing elective surgical procedures were divided into two groups and paired according to procedure, body position during surgery, body mass and breed. Group M+ received morphine by intravenous injection (0.15 mg kg(-1)) before induction of anaesthesia and then by infusion (0.1 mg kg(-1) hour(-1)) during anaesthesia. Group M- received the same anaesthetic agents except that morphine was excluded. At the end of surgery, the horses were placed in a recovery box and allowed to recover without assistance. Recoveries were recorded on videotape, beginning when the anaesthetist left the recovery box, and ending when the horse stood up. Recoveries were assessed from digital video recordings by three observers, unaware of treatment. The time to first movement, attempting and attaining sternal recumbency and standing were recorded. The quality of various aspects of the recovery was assessed to produce a total recovery score; high numerical values indicate poor recoveries. The duration of anaesthesia and the total dose of morphine administered were recorded.

Results The mean morphine dose (95% CI) was 147 (135-160) mg [equivalent to 0.27 (0.25-0.29) mg kg(-1)]. The recovery scores (median, 95% CI) for the M- and M+ groups were 25, 19-41 and 20, 14-26, respectively. Total score increased as duration of anaesthesia increased, independent of treatment. Untreated (M-) horses made more attempts to achieve sternal recumbency: mean number of attempts (95% CI) for M- was 4.5 (2.7-6.2) compared with 2.0 (1.4-2.6) (M+). Untreated horses made more attempts to stand (2.1, 1.6-2.6) compared with the morphine recipients (1.3, 1.1-1.5). Time to standing (in minutes) was significantly (p = 0.0146) longer for the untreated (31.3, 24.3-38.3) compared with treated animals (26.6, 20.9-32.3). The interval between the first movement in recovery to the time at standing was significantly (p < 0.001) longer for M- (14.5, 12.1-16.9 minutes) compared with M+ animals (7.4, 5.0-9.8 minutes).

Conclusions and clinical relevance Recoveries from anaesthesia in the morphine recipients were characterized by fewer attempts to attain sternal recumbency and standing, and a shorter time from the first recovery movement to the time of standing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-29
Number of pages8
JournalVeterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


  • anaesthesia
  • analgesia
  • halothane
  • horse
  • morphine
  • opioids
  • PAIN


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