Morphine and alfentanil permeability through the spinal dura, arachnoid, and pia mater of dogs and monkeys.Anesthesiology 1990; 73(6):1214-9A
Little information exists about which spinal meninx is the principal permeability barrier between the epidural space and the spinal cord or about what physicochemical properties of drug molecules govern their meningeal permeability. To better understand these aspects of epidural pharmacokinetics, the authors measured the permeability of morphine and alfentanil through the different components of the spinal meninges-dura mater, arachnoid mater, and pia mater-of dogs and monkeys in vitro. Live meningeal tissue from either species (dura mater alone, pia mater alone, or intact dura-arachnoid-pia) was placed between two fluid reservoirs of a temperature-controlled diffusion cell. The permeability of the tissues to each opioid was determined by placing the opioid in one of the reservoirs of the diffusion cell and measuring the rate at which the drug diffused through the tissue and appeared in the second reservoir. The arachnoid mater was found to be the major meningeal diffusion barrier between the epidural space and the spinal cord. Alfentanil was 3.7 times more permeable than morphine through all three meninges, suggesting that increased lipid solubility increases meningeal permeability. However, neither lipid solubility nor molecular weight adequately explained the difference in permeability between morphine and alfentanil. The authors conclude that this in vitro model has significant utility for studies aimed at predicting in vivo meningeal permeability and hence the potency and rapidity of action of any opioid administered by the epidural route.