Low-dose ketamine provides comparable acute pain relief, more adverse events than morphine

According to the medical literature, ketamine may be just as effective as opioids in quickly alleviating acute pain but also may carry more risk of neuropsychological adverse events. Researchers performed a systematic review of eight studies, including six randomized clinical trials, with a total of 225 participants.

According to the medical literature, ketamine may be just as effective as opioids in quickly alleviating acute pain but also may carry more risk of neuropsychological adverse events. Researchers performed a systematic review of eight studies, including six randomized clinical trials, with a total of 225 participants. Pain control, opioid requirements, and adverse events were compared in patients who received low-dose I.V. ketamine vs. those who received I.V. morphine in the emergency department (ED). Based on moderate-quality evidence, the investigators found that patients experienced similar pain relief at 30 minutes regardless of whether they received low-dose ketamine or morphine. However, participants treated with ketamine were more likely to suffer agitation, hallucination, and other self-limited adverse events. Limited data, meanwhile, prevented researchers from determining if ketamine lowered opioid demand. Reporting in the <I>Annals of Emergency Medicine</I>, they conclude that "low-dose ketamine may be used as an alternative to opioids for acute pain in the [ED] setting" but stress that patient selection criteria and optimal dosing strategies still need to be defined.