- The disposition of morphine when administered by i.m. injection was studied in 36 patients receiving morphine as part of premedication before general anaesthesia, and in five patients who received morphine as a postoperative analgesic after median sternotomy for coronary artery surgery (PCA group). Maximum plasma concentration of morphine (CP max) was 75.3 +/- 6.0 (mean elimination rate constant (k) 4.85 X 10(-3) min-1 and half-life (T1/2) = 143 min for the preanaesthetic group. The corresponding values for PCA group were CPmax = 58.0 +/- 18.0 ng ml-1 (range 30--130 ng ml-1), k = 5.63 X 10(-3) min-1 and T 1/2 = 123 min. Analysis of variance showed no differences between the groups. Within the preanaesthetic group, there was a significant difference in k between males (k = 4.01 X 10(-3) min-1) and females (6.30 X 10(-3) min-1, P less than 0.01). The corresponding T 1/2 for males was 173 min; and 110 min for females. The variation in the disposition of morphine is thought to be the result of variations in resting muscle blood flow and inadvertent injection into adipose tissue. There were no significant differences between males and females in the preanaesthetic group with respect to age, Cpmax or time from injection to Cpmax.