A 41-year-old African-American woman was admitted to an inpatient hospice facility with advanced, inoperable cervical cancer. The patient was experiencing severe pain secondary to extensive local tumor invasion, osseous pelvic metastases, and sacral decubitus ulcers.
Student Discussion Document (pdf)
Gary M. Reisfield,1 Chris W. Chronister,2 Bruce A. Goldberger,2,3 and Roger L. Bertholf4*
Departments of 1Community Health and Family Medicine; and 4Pathology, University of Florida Health Science Center,
Jacksonville, FL; 2Department of Pathology, Immunology, and Laboratory Medicine; and 3Department of Psychiatry, University
of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, FL.
* Address correspondence to this author at: Department of Pathology, University of Florida Health Science Center/Jacksonville,
655 West 8th Street, Jacksonville, FL 32209. Fax 904-244-4290; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
A 41-year-old African-American woman was admitted to an inpatient hospice facility with advanced,
inoperable cervical cancer. The patient was experiencing severe pain secondary to extensive local tumor
invasion, osseous pelvic metastases, and sacral decubitus ulcers. Her pain was treated with an escalatingdose
schedule of morphine sulfate until satisfactory analgesia was achieved with stable doses of a
combination of controlled-release morphine sulfate (MSContin®, Purdue Pharma LP) 400 mg orally every
8 h, and immediate-release morphine sulfate (MSIR®, Purdue Pharma LP), 180 mg orally every 4 h, as
needed for breakthrough pain (average 2 to 3 doses per day). The patient experienced several episodes of
life-threatening vaginal bleeding for which she was hospitalized for red blood cell transfusions and bilateral
hypogastric artery embolizations. She spent the final 12 weeks of her life exclusively on the inpatient
hospice unit. Approximately 3 weeks before her death, the patient underwent urine specimen collection and
analysis of morphine and metabolites. GC-MS analysis revealed the presence of morphine as well as small
quantities of hydromorphone.
Questions to Consider
- Why do physicians use urine drug monitoring with patients
receiving opioid analgesics?
- What are the normally expected metabolites of morphine?
- Had this patient on high-morphine therapy been abusing
- In the context of a hydromorphone-positive urine drug test
in a patient administered only morphine, how might one
distinguish between morphine adherence and unauthorized
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