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Consensus Guidelines on the Use of Intravenous Ketamine Infusions for Acute Pain Management From the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, the American Academy of Pain Medicine, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists
  1. Eric S. Schwenk, MD*,
  2. Eugene R. Viscusi, MD*,
  3. Asokumar Buvanendran, MD,
  4. Robert W. Hurley, MD, PhD,
  5. Ajay D. Wasan, MD, MSc§,
  6. Samer Narouze, MD, PhD,
  7. Anuj Bhatia, MD, MBBS**,
  8. Fred N. Davis, MD††,
  9. William M. Hooten, MD‡‡ and
  10. Steven P. Cohen, MD§§
  1. *Department of Anesthesiology, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA
  2. Department of Anesthesiology, Rush Medical College, Chicago, IL
  3. Departments of Anesthesiology and Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC
  4. §Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
  5. Departments of Anesthesiology and Neurosurgery, Western Reserve Hospital, Akron, OH
  6. **Department of Anesthesiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  7. ††Procare Pain Solutions and Department of Anesthesiology, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Grand Rapids, MI
  8. ‡‡Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychiatry, Mayo College of Medicine, Rochester, MN
  9. §§Departments of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD
  1. Address correspondence to: Steven P. Cohen, MD, 550 N Broadway, Suite 301, Baltimore, MD 21029 (e-mail: scohen40{at}


Background Ketamine infusions have been used for decades to treat acute pain, but a recent surge in usage has made the infusions a mainstay of treatment in emergency departments, in the perioperative period in individuals with refractory pain, and in opioid-tolerant patients. The widespread variability in patient selection, treatment parameters, and monitoring indicates a need for the creation of consensus guidelines.

Methods The development of acute pain ketamine guidelines grew as a corollary from the genesis of chronic pain ketamine guidelines. The charge for the development of acute pain ketamine guidelines was provided by the Boards of Directors of both the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine and the American Academy of Pain Medicine, who approved the document along with the American Society of Anesthesiologists' Committees on Pain Medicine and Standards and Practice Parameters. The committee chair developed questions based on input from the committee during conference calls, which the committee then refined. Groups of 3 to 5 panel members and the committee chair were responsible for answering individual questions. After preliminary consensus was achieved, the entire committee made further revisions via e-mail and conference calls.

Results Consensus guidelines were prepared in the following areas: indications, contraindications for acute pain and whether they differ from those for chronic pain, the evidence for the use of ketamine as an adjunct to opioid-based therapy, the evidence supporting patient-controlled ketamine analgesia, the use of nonparenteral forms of ketamine, and the subanesthetic dosage range and whether the evidence supports those dosages for acute pain. The group was able to reach consensus on the answers to all questions.

Conclusions Evidence supports the use of ketamine for acute pain in a variety of contexts, including as a stand-alone treatment, as an adjunct to opioids, and, to a lesser extent, as an intranasal formulation. Contraindications for acute pain are similar to those for chronic pain, partly based on the observation that the dosage ranges are similar. Larger studies evaluating different acute pain conditions are needed to enhance patient selection, determine the effectiveness of nonparenteral ketamine alternatives, define optimal treatment parameters, and develop protocols optimizing safety and access to care.

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  • S.P.C. is funded in part by a Congressional grant from the Center for Rehabilitation Sciences Research, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD (SAP grant 111726).

    The authors declare no conflict of interest.

    The opinions or assertions contained herein are those of the authors, the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, and the American Academy of Pain Medicine and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.

    Because this document has neither been presented to nor approved by either the ASA Board of Directors or House of Delegates, it is not an official or approved statement or policy of the Society. Variances from the recommendations contained in the document may be acceptable based on the judgment of the responsible anesthesiologist.