Opioids in the immune system: from experimental studies to clinical practice
Revista da Associação Médica Brasileira
SUMMARY INTRODUCTION: Opioids interact with both innate and adaptive immune systems and have direct effects on opioid receptors located on immune cells. Research on this topic has provided evidence of the opioid influence on the immune response associated with surgical stress. The immunological effects of opioids are currently being investigated, particularly whether they influence the outcome of surgery or the underlying disease regarding important aspects like infection or cancer progression.
... cancer progression. This review addresses background research related to the influence of the opioid receptor on the immune system, the immunosuppressive effect associated with major opioids during the perioperative period, and their clinical relevance. The objective of the study was to review the effects of opioids on the immune system. Methods: A search strategy was conducted in PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane databases using the terms "immunosuppression," "immune system," "surgical procedures," "analgesics," "opioids" and "perioperative care." Results: The immunosuppressive effect of opioids was identified over 30 years ago. They include signaling and acting directly through immune cells, including B and T lymphocytes, NK cells, monocytes, and macrophages, as well as activating the downstream pathways of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis leading to the production of immunosuppressive glucocorticoids in the peripheral and sympathetic nervous system.