Use of ketamine in the prehospital setting may be advantageous due to its potent analgesic and sedative properties and favorable risk profile. Use in the military setting has demonstrated both efficacy and safety for pain relief. The purpose of this study was to assess ketamine training, use, and perceptions in the civilian setting among nationally certified paramedics (NRPs) in the United States.
A cross-sectional survey of NRPs was performed. The electronic questionnaire assessed paramedic training, authorization, use, and perceptions of ketamine. Included in the analysis were completed surveys of paramedics who held one or more state paramedic credentials, indicated “patient care provider” as their primary role, and worked in non-military settings. Descriptive statistics were calculated.
A total of 14,739 responses were obtained (response rate=23%), of which 10,737 (73%) met inclusion criteria and constituted the study cohort. Over one-half (53%) of paramedics reported learning about ketamine during their initial paramedic training. Meanwhile, 42% reported seeking ketamine-related education on their own. Of all respondents, only 33% (3,421/10,737) were authorized by protocol to use ketamine. Most commonly authorized uses included pain management (55%), rapid sequence intubation (RSI; 72%), and chemical restraint/sedation (72%). One-third of authorized providers (1,107/3,350) had never administered ketamine, with another 32% (1,070/3,350) having administered ketamine less than five times in their career. Ketamine was perceived to be safe and effective as the vast majority reported that they were comfortable with the use of ketamine (94%) and would, in similar situations (95%), use it again.
This was the first large, national survey to assess ketamine training, use, and perceptions among paramedics in the civilian prehospital setting. While training related to ketamine use was commonly reported among paramedics, few were authorized to administer the drug by their agency’s protocols. Of those authorized to use ketamine, most paramedics had limited experience administering the drug. Future research is needed to determine why the prevalence of ketamine use is low and to assess the safety and efficacy of ketamine use in the prehospital setting.