Ketamine for Analgesia AND MORE From Dr. Fox

As I state in About The Site , my blog is just my online study notes and that is why I will repost some posts and make excerpts of some posts and articles. It is so I will have easy access to them for my clinical use and for my review.

The following is a repost of Dr. Sean Fox’s outstanding Ketamine for Analgesia, April 11, 2014 – Updated July 7, 2014 from The Pediatric EM Morsels blog [AND MORE in the title refers to the outstanding ketamine links scattered throughout the post and in the references – you’ll want to review all of the links also.]

Last week’s Morsel discussed patellar dislocations and mentioned the use ofnitrous oxide to assist with the reduction.  Many of you had great feedback on other pain management options (thank you!).  Obviously, the management of pain is one of our primary objectives and the science and art of it does not lend itself to a simple, single option.  Fortunately, we have many options that can be appropriately tailored to our patients.

Recently, a colleague and friend, Dr. James Homme, delivered a brilliant presentation on Ketamine for Analgesia at the ACEP/AAP Advanced Pediatric Emergency Medicine Assembly and proclaimed “To know ketamine, is to love ketamine.”

We have covered Ketamine’s use for Delayed Sequence Intubation and for the treatment of Hypercyanotic Spells and the team at Don’tForgetTheBubbles.comjust covered it’s use for Conscious / Procedural Sedation.  Now, let’s explore thenext frontier for Ketamine usage: Analgesia!

The Problem With Brief Painful Procedures. . . .

  1. Many of the procedures that we need to perform in the Emergency Department do not require a prolonged time.
    1. Incision and drainage, uncomplicated joint reductions, wound cleansing / debridement, uncomplicated laceration repair are all great examples of procedures that often do not require more than a few minutes of actual procedure time.
  2. The problem with these procedures is that they are still painful and scarey.
  3. This creates a difficult to solve risk : benefit ratio equation.
    1. Risk of full conscious / procedural sedation
    2. Risk of suboptimal pain and anxiety control
    3. Risk of physical restraint
  4. Unfortunately, the equation is often solved in a manner that inadequately controls the child’s discomfort in favor of being expedient.

There Is No Perfect Rx, But Ketamine Is Close. . .

  • The World Health Organization has characterized Ketamine as a “core medication for basic healthcare systems.”
    • While those of us in Ivory Towers can debate, it is recommended for systems with far fewer resources.
  • The US Defense Health Board called Ketamine “a new alternative to conventional battlefield analgesia” in 2012.
    • Ketamine is ideal for pain management in an austere environment.
      • Safe and effective.
      • Rapid onset.
      • No respiratory depression.
      • Requires little (if any) monitoring.
      • Our EDs are like luxury hotels compared to the austere regions it is being used in.
    • Referred to morphine as “the slipping gold standard.”
  • The world’s literature (see references) notes Ketamine is effective at reducing pain quickly (usually by 5 minutes).

Dosage Matters

  • The first publication showing Ketamine as being effective as an analgesic was in 1971.
    • Ketamine used at subdissociative doses worked better than merperidine for reducing pain response.
  • Since then we have become very comfortable with it as a medication for conscious / procedural sedation.
  • It’s association with PCP has likely affected its usage as an analgesic, however.
  • ANALGESIC DOSAGES: 0.1 – 0.3 MG/KG IV; 0.5 – 1 MG/KG IM

Barriers To Ketamine Use

  • Institutional labeling
    • If your hospital has labeled it as a medication to be used for sedation purposes, you will likely met resistance to giving it for analgesia without filling out 1,000 pages of conscious sedation paperwork.
      • Perhaps you can use the references below to change that.
    • Certainly we use other medications for various applications (opioids, benzodiazepines, etc).
  • Myths about head injury
  • Fear of Emergence Reaction
    • This is actually a rare event for the group that receives subdissociative doses of Ketamine.

Potential Therapeutic Groups

See reference

  • The awake patient who needs a brief painful procedure (5-10 min).
  • The patient with chronic pain on opioids presenting with intractable pain (ex, Sickle Cell Pain Crisis).
  • The patient in whom pain is associated with emotional distress.
    • Ketamine not only controls pain, but it also makes people seem to be indifferent to it.
    • Ketamine is also being looked at for treatment of depression.

So, while you might not be using Ketamine for Analgesia during your next shift for that I+D, maybe in the very near future you will be.


Nielsen BN1, Friis SM, Rømsing J, Schmiegelow K, Anderson BJ, Ferreirós N, Labocha S, Henneberg SW. Intranasal sufentanil/ketamine analgesia in children.Paediatr Anaesth. 2014 Feb;24(2):170-80. PMID: 24118506. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Ahern TL1, Herring AA, Stone MB, Frazee BW. Effective analgesia with low-dose ketamine and reduced dose hydromorphone in ED patients with severe pain. Am J Emerg Med. 2013 May;31(5):847-51. PMID: 23602757. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Norambuena C1, Yañez J, Flores V, Puentes P, Carrasco P, Villena R. Oral ketamine and midazolam for pediatric burn patients: a prospective, randomized, double-blind study. J Pediatr Surg. 2013 Mar;48(3):629-34. PMID: 23480923.[PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Herring AA, Ahern T, Stone MB, Frazee BW. Emerging applications of low-dose ketamine for pain management in the ED. Am J Emerg Med. 2013 Feb;31(2):416-9. PMID: 23159425. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Richards JR1, Rockford RE. Low-dose ketamine analgesia: patient and physician experience in the ED. Am J Emerg Med. 2013 Feb;31(2):390-4. PMID: 23041484.[PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Niesters M1, Khalili-Mahani N, Martini C, Aarts L, van Gerven J, van Buchem MA, Dahan A, Rombouts S. Effect of subanesthetic ketamine on intrinsic functional brain connectivity: a placebo-controlled functional magnetic resonance imaging study in healthy male volunteers. Anesthesiology. 2012 Oct;117(4):868-77. PMID:22890117. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Arroyo-Novoa CM1, Figueroa-Ramos MI, Miaskowski C, Padilla G, Paul SM, Rodríguez-Ortiz P, Stotts NA, Puntillo KA. Efficacy of small doses of ketamine with morphine to decrease procedural pain responses during open wound care. Clin J Pain. 2011 Sep;27(7):561-6. PMID: 21436683. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Persson J. Wherefore ketamine? Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2010 Aug;23(4):455-60. PMID: 20531172. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Zempsky WT1, Loiselle KA, Corsi JM, Hagstrom JN. Use of low-dose ketamine infusion for pediatric patients with sickle cell disease-related pain: a case series.Clin J Pain. 2010 Feb;26(2):163-7. PMID: 20090444. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Black IH1, McManus J. Pain management in current combat operations. Prehosp Emerg Care. 2009 Apr-Jun;13(2):223-7. PMID: 19291561. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Svenson JE1, Abernathy MK. Ketamine for prehospital use: new look at an old drug. Am J Emerg Med. 2007 Oct;25(8):977-80. PMID: 17920984. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Sadove MS, Shulman M, Hatano S, Fevold N. Analgesic effects of ketamine administered in subdissociative doses. Anesth Analg. 1971 May-Jun;50(3):452-7. PMID: 5103784. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]
This entry was posted in Airway Management, Anesthesia, Emergency Medicine, Emergency Procedures, Pain Management, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Pediatrics, Procedural Sedation and Analgesia, Procedures. Bookmark the permalink.