1. The actions of 15 mg of intravenous morphine on hand and forearm capacitance and resistance vessels were studied with venous occlusion plethysmography.
2. In contrast to a 5% increase in forearm venous volume, intravenous morphine caused a 26% decrease in hand venous volume. This hand venoconstriction was confirmed by finding an increase in hand venous tone. The effects of morphine on hand veins were attenuated by intra-arterial phentolamine and blocked by intravenous naloxone.
3. Whereas morphine had no significant effect on forearm resistance vessels, it caused a 70% reduction in hand vascular resistance.
4. Intra-arterial morphine had no local action on hand capacitance or resistance vessels.
5. Though the contrasting actions of morphine on hand and forearm capacitance vessels resulted in no important change in limb venous capacitance, the large reduction of cutaneous vascular resistance may contribute to haemodynamic benefit in patients with pulmonary oedema.