Surgical stress, but not anesthesia induction, produced a significant increase in plasma beta-endorphin immunoreactivity in eight patients undergoing abdominal surgery. This increase was closely correlated with a parallel increase in plasma cortisol. Post-operative morphine administered for pain relief was associated with a significant reduction in plasma levels of both beta-endorphin and cortisol. These results demonstrate the responsiveness of the endorphin system to acute stress in humans and provide additional evidence linking plasma beta-endorphin to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
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