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Real-world study of intranasal ketamine for use in patients with refractory chronic migraine: a retrospective analysis

Abstract

Introduction Subanesthetic ketamine infusion has been used for managing refractory headache in inpatient or outpatient infusion settings. Intranasal ketamine may be an alternative option for outpatient care.

Methods A retrospective study was conducted at a single tertiary headache center to assess the clinical effectiveness and tolerability of intranasal ketamine in patients with refractory chronic migraine. Candidates who received intranasal ketamine between January 2019 and February 2020 were screened through an electronic medical record query. Manual chart reviews and structured telephone interviews were conducted on obtaining informed consent.

Results Of 242 subjects screened, 169 (79.9% women) of median (IQR) age 44 (22) years were interviewed. They reported a median (IQR) of 30 (9) monthly headache days and tried 4 (1) classes of preventive medications. Overall, they used 6 (6) sprays per day, with a median (IQR) of spray use of 10 (11) days per month. Intranasal ketamine was reported as ‘very effective’ in 49.1% and the quality of life was considered ‘much better’ in 35.5%. At the time of the interview, 65.1% remained current intranasal ketamine users and 74.0% reported at least one adverse event.

Conclusion In this descriptive study, intranasal ketamine served as an acute treatment for refractory chronic migraine by reducing headache intensity and improving quality of life with relatively tolerable adverse events. Most patients found intranasal ketamine effective and continued to use it despite these adverse events. Given the potential for overuse, it should be reserved for those clearly in need of more effective rescue treatment with appropriate safety precautions. Well-designed prospective placebo-controlled trials are necessary to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of intranasal ketamine in patients with migraine.

  • Treatment Outcome
  • Pain Management
  • Ambulatory Care

Data availability statement

The deidentified data may be available upon reasonable request.

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