Guidelines issued by the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine suggest that ketamine infusions for acute pain management are advantageous as a primary treatment or as an opioid adjunct. Despite significant data regarding its use in adult patients, there remains a paucity of information related to its quality and side effect profile in pediatrics and how it can be effectively used. We aimed to summarize our practice of utilizing ketamine for pediatric pain management in non‐critical care settings.
Patients aged 0‐21 years receiving low‐dose ketamine infusions (≤0.3 mg/kg/hour) in inpatient care units over five years were retrospectively analyzed. Demographics, specific quality metrics, and side effects were quantified.
About 172 patients received 270 subhypnotic ketamine infusions. The median duration of the infusions was 63.8 hours and 0.2 mg/kg/hour for the highest dose. The primary indication for ketamine was chronic pain exacerbation (83.3%). Despite similar opioid consumption, there was a significant reduction in mean verbal pain scores before (8.9 ± 1.9, P < .001) and after ketamine (6.5 ± 2.7, P < .001) use. Although there were 52 incidences of some side effect (neurologic excitability [10.4%]; over‐sedation [7.4%]; rapid response team alerts [1.1%]), none resulted in termination of the infusion or escalations in care.
Ketamine can effectively be used as part of a multimodal analgesic regimen in pediatric patients in non‐critical care settings. Our five‐year experience using low‐dose ketamine infusions highlights an acceptable side effect profile, with no attributable escalations in care or serious adverse events.