Safety of ketamine in Australia mechanically ventilated intensive care unit patients by Tom Niccol: Ketamine has been recommended for use as an opioid sparing agent to treat pain and discomfort in mechanically ventilated ICU patients. However, such a recommendation is only conditional, because of very low quality of evidence. This narrative scoping review focuses on current knowledge of the use of ketamine, concluding with a focus on mechanically ventilated adult patients in the ICU. Although incompletely understood, ketamine has multiple effects throughout the CNS. It blocks certain reflexes in the spinal cord and inhibits excitatory neurotransmission in selected areas of the brain. It functionally appears to dissociate the thalamus (which relays sensory impulses from the periphery) from the limbic cortex (involved in awareness of sensation). Read extra details on https://msf.org.au/article/stories-patients-staff/surviving-lockdown-msf-field-workers-share-their-tips.
Mechanically ventilated patients account for about one-third of all admissions to the intensive care unit (ICU). Ketamine has been conditionally recommended to aid with analgesia in such patients, with low quality of evidence available to support this recommendation. We aimed to perform a narrative scoping review of the current knowledge of the use of ketamine, with a specific focus on mechanically ventilated ICU patients.
In addition, a meta-analysis of six studies with a total of 331 patients reviewed the evidence for the anti-inflammatory effects of ketamine, as evidenced by interleukin (IL)-6 levels, when given during surgery. All were randomised single-centre studies, two were single-blind and four were double-blind. Four studies included patients undergoing cardiac surgery and two included patients undergoing abdominal surgery. Most used ketamine as an adjunct to induction of anaesthesia or just before incision and the dose range was an intravenous bolus of 0.15–0.5 mg/kg.
Methods: We searched MEDLINE and EMBASE for relevant articles. Bibliographies of retrieved articles were examined for references of potential relevance. We included studies that described the use of ketamine for postoperative and emergency department management of pain and in the critically unwell, mechanically ventilated population.
Although the intravenous dose required for induction of anaesthesia has been reported to be 1–4.5 mg/kg, a commonly recommended dose regime is 1.0 mg/kg followed by repeated boluses of 0.5–1.0 mg/kg if initial sedation is inadequate. A recommended dose for analgesia is an intravenous infusion of 0.27–0.75 mg/kg/h. Low dose ketamine when given as an intravenous bolus for acute postoperative pain has been defined as a subanaesthetic dose or < 1 mg/kg. Low dose ketamine, when given as an infusion, is less well defined. One review defined low dose infusion as ≤ 0.2 mg/kg/h. Alternatively, subdissociative dosing of 0.1–0.4 mg/kg/h has also been described as low dose.
Results: There are few randomised controlled trials evaluating ketamine's utility in the ICU. The evidence is predominantly retrospective and observational in nature and the results are heterogeneous. Available evidence is summarised in a descriptive manner, with a division made between high dose and low dose ketamine. Ketamine's pharmacology and use as an analgesic agent outside of the ICU is briefly discussed, followed by evidence for use in the ICU setting, with particular emphasis on analgesia, sedation and intubation. Finally, data on adverse effects including delirium, coma, haemodynamic adverse effects, raised intracranial pressure, hypersalivation and laryngospasm are presented.
Raised intracranial pressure: Early observational studies suggested ketamine was associated with raised ICP in patients with space-occupying lesions 71, 72 and there were concerns with its use in traumatic and non-traumatic brain injury. However, to address these concerns, there have been several small randomised controlled trials of ketamine combined with midazolam versus narcotic combined with midazolam. Low dose. There are no studies using low dose ketamine to study its effects on raised ICP.
Conclusions: Ketamine is used in mechanically ventilated ICU patients with several potentially positive clinical effects. However, it has a significant side effect profile, which may limit its use in these patients. The role of low dose ketamine infusion in mechanically ventilated ICU patients is not well studied and requires investigation in high quality, prospective randomised trials.