Background/Purpose: In the emergency department (ED) many barriers exist to pain management. NSAIDs and acetaminophen often cannot provide enough relief, while are hindered by side effects, dependency, and tolerance. A non-competitive NMDA receptor antagonist, ketamine has historically been used for sedation and anesthesia in rural settings or in those with limited resources. Ketamine’s unique safety profile and variety of dosage forms indicate its potential role in pain management. An evaluation was conducted of ketamine’s use in low doses to treat pain in an emergency department.

Methodology: A retroactive report was generated to identify patients who received ketamine in the Homestead Hospital ED between June 2014 and June 2015. Subjects included patients treated with low-dose ketamine (LDK) for pain in doses less than 1 mg/kg for pain. Pain evaluation tools included validated scales and provider documentation. Subjects’ profiles were reviewed to determine how LDK was used to treat patients’ pain symptoms, safety, and effectiveness. Descriptive statistics were generated using Microsoft Office Excel 2007.

Results: 24 subjects met inclusion criteria. A total average dose of 0.375 mg/kg was administered for eight distinct indications. Ketamine monotherapy reduced an average baseline pain rating of Severe to that of Mild upon discharge, in a manner similar to coadministration with analgesics and sedative agents. Two adverse drug events were reported for separate subjects; each was mild in nature.

Conclusion: LDK was safely administered to treat a variety of indications. The drug was effective in doses < 1 mg/kg for emergency analgesia. More data will be needed to definitively determine the safety of ketamine at low-doses and how to maximize its risk-benefit ratio.

Publication Date


Presented At:

11th Annual BHSF Research Conference

Content Type


Baptist Health South Florida Affiliations:

Joseph Ladd, Pharm.D.

Additional Authors:

Winifred Pardo, PharmD, BCPS

Open Access

Available to all.