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Very-low-dose ketamine for the management of pain and sedation in the ICU

Mario De Pinto, MD, Jill Jelacic, MD, William T. Edwards, PhD, MD


Management of pain in critically ill patients can be very difficult. In the attempt to provide comfort with adequate levels of opioids and sedatives, respiratory depression and cardiovascular instability may become difficult to control in patients with labile hemodynamics and poor cardiopulmonary reserve. The use of medications like ketamine, an anesthetic agent that in subanesthetic doses has been reported to be effective in preventing opioidinduced tolerance and to have analgesic properties, may be of help, especially in patients who develop tolerance, leading to rapidly escalating doses of opioids and sedatives. The case report presented here shows how a very low dose of ketamine can be helpful for the management of pain and sedation in critically ill patients, especially when they are ready to be weaned from mechanical ventilation, and very high doses of opiods and sedatives do not permit it.


pain, sedation, opioids, tolerance, critical care

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