In a new study, researchers found that more than one in three patients may experience side effects after using ketamine infusion therapy.
The side effects include hallucinations and visual disturbances.
The research was conducted by a team from Duke University and elsewhere.
As the opioid epidemic continues to devastate the United States, ketamine use has grown as a pain management alternative.
Ketamine is a powerful anesthetic that is also used to treat acute and chronic pain and depression.
While the drug is known for some side effects that negatively affect mental status, there are many other potential risks.
Recent consensus guidelines support ketamine infusion therapy for acute pain management, but the groups note more studies are needed to determine the best approach for using it safely and effectively.
The current research aimed to determine both short- and long-term side effects of low dose ketamine when used for pain treatment.
The team conducted a review of side effects related to ketamine infusions for pain management.
Reported side effects were categorized into two groups: those directly linked to ketamine (hallucinations, vivid dreams, out-of-body experience and/or unusual thoughts) and those associated with using ketamine in combination with other drugs (sedation, visual disturbances, and urinary dysfunction).
They found among 297 Duke University pain patients who received ketamine infusion therapy between January and June 2017, 104 (35%) reported significant side effects.
Twenty percent of these patients suffered side effects directly linked to ketamine, while 15% experienced side effects associated with the use of ketamine in combination with other drugs.
The team says more than one in three patients reported significant side effects from ketamine infusions that required ongoing monitoring or resulted in discontinuation of therapy.
More research on the impact of ketamine use for pain on the population is needed.
The lead author of the study is Padma Gulur, M.D., a member of ASA’s Committee on Pain Medicine.
The study was presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2019 annual meeting.
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