Objective: To evaluate the role of nebulized opioids in COPD.
Methods: A MEDLINE search was completed to obtain pertinent clinical literature. Key search terms included the following: nebulizer, opioids, COPD, dyspnea, morphine, and hydromorphone.
Results: Currently, the evidence in the literature is lacking regarding placebo-controlled studies to support nebulized morphine for the relief of dyspnea in patients with COPD. The studies reviewed varied considerably in the dose, opioid used, administration schedule, and methodology. One study found improved exercise capacity in 11 patients not reproducible in a larger sample, and another study found benefit in 54 terminal patients. All other studies found no benefit.
Conclusions: The recently published Global Initiative for Lung Disease guidelines have specifically stated that opioids are contraindicated in COPD management due to the potential respiratory depression and worsening hypercapnia. Nebulized opioids should be discouraged, as current data do not support their use.