A prospective randomized, double-dummy trial comparing IV push low dose ketamine to short infusion of low dose ketamine for treatment of pain in the ED

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Study objective

Compare adverse effects and analgesic efficacy of low-dose ketamine for acute pain in the ED administered either by single intravenous push (IVP) or short infusion (SI).


Patients 18–65, presenting to ED with acute abdominal, flank, or musculoskeletal pain with initial pain score ≥ 5, were randomized to ketamine 0.3 mg/kg by either IVP or SI with placebo double-dummy. Adverse effects were evaluated by Side Effects Rating Scale for Dissociative Anesthetics (SERSDA) and Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale (RASS) at 5, 15, 30, 60, 90, and 120 min post-administration; analgesic efficacy was evaluated by Numerical Rating Scale (NRS).


48 patients enrolled in the study. IVP group had higher overall rates of feeling of unreality on SERSDA scale: 92% versus 54% (difference 37.5%; p = 0.008; 95% CI 9.3–59.5%). At 5 min median severity of feeling of unreality was 3.0 for IVP versus 0.0 for SI (p = 0.001). IVP also showed greater rates of sedation on RASS scale at 5 min: median RASS − 2.0 versus 0.0 (p = 0.01). Decrease in mean pain scores from baseline to 15 min was similar across groups: 5.2 ± 3.53 (95% CI 3.7–6.7) for IVP; 5.75 ± 3.48 (95% CI 4.3–7.2) for SI. There were no statistically significant differences with respect to changes in vital signs and need for rescue medication.


Low-dose ketamine given as a short infusion is associated with significantly lower rates of feeling of unreality and sedation with no difference in analgesic efficacy in comparison to intravenous push.

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