Ketamine procedural sedation in the emergency department of an urban tertiary hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

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Study objective

We describe ketamine procedural sedations and associated adverse events in low-acuity and high-acuity patients in a resource-limited ED.


This was a prospective observational study of ketamine procedural sedations at the Emergency Medical Department at the Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We observed consecutive procedural sedations and recorded patient demographics, medications, vital signs, pulse oximetry, capnography and a priori defined adverse events (using standard definitions in emergency medicine sedation guidelines). All treatment decisions were at the discretion of the treating providers who were blinded to study measurements to simulate usual care. Data collection was unblinded if predefined safety parameters were met. For all significant adverse and unblinding events, ketamine causality was determined via review protocol. Additionally, providers and patients were assessed for sedation satisfaction.


We observed 54 children (median 3 years, range 11 days–15 years) and 45 adults (median 33 years, range 18–79 years). The most common indications for ketamine were burn management in children (55.6%) and orthopaedic procedures in adults (68.9%). Minor adverse events included nausea/vomiting (12%), recovery excitation (11%) and one case of transient hypertension. There were nine (9%) patients who had decreased saturation readings (SpO2 ≤92%). There were three deaths, all in severely injured patients. After review protocol, none of the desaturations or patient deaths were thought to be caused by ketamine. No patient experienced ketamine-related laryngospasm, apnoea or permanent complications. Overall, ketamine was well tolerated and resulted in high patient and provider satisfaction.


In this series of ketamine sedations in an urban, resource-limited ED, there were no serious adverse events attributable to ketamine.

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