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The aim of the study is to determine the performance of low-dose ketamine (LDK) as an analgesic for acute pain management in adult patients in the emergency department (ED).
We systematically reviewed electronic databases, grey literature, conference abstracts, and clinical trial registries. Two independent reviewers identified eligible studies. These selections were subsequently reviewed by one reviewer who identified the final eligible studies, using refined inclusion and exclusion criteria. Our outcome measures included the analgesic effect of LDK, need for rescue analgesia, and neuropsychological adverse events secondary to LDK use. We assessed inter-rater agreement using kappa statistics and proposed a treatment recommendation using the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) software. Heterogeneity among studies precluded meta-analysis.
Our electronic search identified 1,408 records; 44 were selected for full evaluation (kappa=0.70), and 8 were included after the final review. All six randomized controlled trials and two observational studies were set in the ED where LDK was administered to adult patients ( >18 years old) exclusively for pain management. All studies had an overall low risk of bias. There was extensive variation in the dose and route of LDK used (0.1-0.7 mg/kg SC/IV/IM), administration protocols, and use of adjunct analgesia. Overall, most studies reported a significant analgesic effect of LDK with occasional need for rescue analgesia and mild-to-moderate adverse events (dizziness, dysphoria, and confusion).
There are moderate to low quality data supporting LDK as an alternative analgesic in the ED with the potential for minimal requirement of rescue analgesia and self-limited neuropsychological adverse events.
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