Low-Dose Ketamine for Postoperative Pain Management

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Ketamine, an anesthetic agent, is gaining attention as an analgesic for the management of acute and chronic pain conditions. Perianesthesia nurses may expect to see ketamine's use increase as more anecdotal and evidence-based experience is gained with its use for pain management. Unlike opioids, ketamine supports respirations while supporting hemodynamic function; moreover, the agent has potential for decreasing opioid-induced hyperalgesia. Ongoing clinical evidence continues to support ketamine's use for analgesia, thus it may be argued that the current Food and Drug Administration classification for ketamine as an anesthetic agent is outdated, and patients would be better served by a reclassification of this medication to include its use for analgesic purposes. This continuing education article provides an overview of ketamine, its side effects, and the possible adverse reactions so perianesthesia nurses may be prepared to care for postsurgical patients who receive ketamine for analgesic purposes.

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