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Opioids, including fentanyl, are often administered to patients who may be at risk for the consequences of impaired immune function. We performed a clinical study to test the effects of the synthetic opioid fentanyl on human immune function. Participants received an IV fentanyl initial dose of 3 [mu]g/kg followed by a 2-h IV infusion of 1.2 [mu]g [middle dot] kg-1 [middle dot] h-1. Peripheral blood was drawn before and after fentanyl administration to test for neutrophil phagocytic function, neutrophil antibody-dependent cell cytotoxicity, natural killer cell cytotoxicity, percentage of lymphocyte populations, T-lymphocyte proliferative response, and in vivo antibody response to a pneumococcal vaccine inoculation given at the end of the fentanyl infusion. Fentanyl exposure under the conditions of this study caused a rapid and significant increase in natural killer cell cytotoxicity, which was coincident with an increase in the percentage of CD16 and CD8 cells in peripheral blood. Fentanyl did not significantly affect any of the other immune measurements.

(C) 2002 International Anesthesia Research Society