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Impact of ketamine versus fentanyl continuous infusion on opioid use in patients admitted to a surgical-trauma intensive care unit

Yogitha Pazhani, PharmD, Jennifer Roth, PharmD, BCPS, BCCCP, Vivek Kataria, PharmD, BCCCP, Hoa L. Nguyen, MD, MS, PhD, Adrian Ramos, RN, MSN, AGACNP, Jennifer Mooney, MD, FACS


Objective: Ketamine has been shown to decrease opioid utilization as an adjunct, but limited evidence is available on ketamine as a primary analgesic strategy.

Design: A retrospective chart review.

Patients and participants: Mechanically ventilated adult patients (18 years) in the surgery-trauma intensive care unit (STICU) with continuous infusion ketamine or fentanyl with concomitant propofol for at least 12 hours were screened for inclusion. The final analysis included 22 patients in the ketamine/propofol (KP) group and 24 patients in the fentanyl/propofol (FP) group.

Interventions: Patients in the STICU received KP or FP continuous infusions.

Main outcome measures: The primary outcome compared opioid requirements between both groups during mechanical ventilation.

Results: The median opioid requirement during mechanical ventilation was significantly higher in the FP group compared to the KP group (median 1,392 milligrams of morphine equivalents (MMEs) [interquartile range (IQR) 709.5-2,292] versus 206.3 MME [IQR 87-510], p < 0.001). After extubation, there was no difference in opioid utilization. Patients in the KP group spent less time at goal Critical Care Pain Observation Tool compared to the FP group (median 77.6 percent, IQR [71.9-85.2] versus 88.9 percent, IQR [76.9-97.4], p = 0.003). The proportions of patients developing adverse effects were not significantly different between the two groups.

Conclusions: Among critically ill mechanically ventilated patients in the STICU, continuous ketamine resulted in significantly less opioids during mechanical ventilation. Further studies with a larger sample size are needed to assess the appropriate dosing strategy for ketamine to produce adequate analgesia when used as a primary analgesic in mechanically ventilated patients.


ketamine, fentanyl, analgesia management, trauma, surgery

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