Use of low-dose ketamine infusions in the emergency department (ED) has not previously been described, despite routine use in perioperative and other settings. Our hypothesis was that a low-dose ketamine bolus followed by continuous infusion would 1) provide clinically significant and sustained pain relief; 2) be well tolerated; and 3) be feasible in the ED.
We prospectively administered 15 mg intravenous ketamine followed immediately by continuous ketamine infusion at 20 mg/h for 1 hour. Optional morphine (4 mg) was offered at 20, 40, and 60 minutes. Pain intensity, vitals signs, level of sedation, and adverse reactions were assessed for 120 minutes.
A total of 38 patients were included with a median initial numerical rating scale (NRS) pain score of 9. At 10 minutes, the median reduction in pain score was 4, with 7 patients reporting a score of 0. At 60 and 120 minutes, 25 and 26 patients, respectively, reported clinically significant pain reduction (decrease NRS score > 3). Heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation remained stable. Mild or moderate side effects including dizziness, fatigue, and headache were common. Patient satisfaction was high; 85% reported they would have this medication again for similar pain.
A low-dose ketamine infusion protocol provided significant pain relief with mostly mild side effects and no severe adverse events.
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