Ketamine has been used for various purposes in medicine for about 60 years, with its primary role as an anesthetic during surgeries. Recent research of ketamine benefits has opened a door for new applications of this agent, the most notable one being its usage in chronic pain management, thanks to its analgesic effects.
When Should Ketamine be Used for Pain Management?
In general, there are two types of patients who may particularly benefit from ketamine treatment – those suffering from chronic pain and plan to undergo surgery and those whose chronic pain didn’t react to traditional medications and treatment.
There is a significant number of health issues with chronic pain that can successfully be treated with ketamine: CRPS, cancer, fibromyalgia, phantom pain, neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, spinal injuries, and many more.
Ketamine has a very specific action on very specific receptors in the spinal cord, but these receptors are not activated in all patients with pain, thus the limited results. This is a reason why a patient’s medical history is thoroughly examined prior to prescribing ketamine as pain relief and those suffering from severe liver diseases, poorly controlled cardiovascular diseases, substance abuse problems, poorly controlled psychoses, glaucoma, and elevated intracranial pressure may not be candidates for ketamine treatment.
Even though ketamine may not work for all types of pain and outcomes may vary from patient to patient basis, the success it achieved in some patients definitely makes it an option worth considering.
Current Concerns for using Ketamine for Pain Management
The main concern for Ketamine usage in pain management is the risk of bias due to small sample sizes in research conducted so far. The method definitely needs more clinical trials to determine the best dosage, favorable indications, and potential use of adjuvants. Ketamine’s effects are very dose-dependent, both desirable ones as well as potential side effects, as they directly influence the central nervous system, raising concerns for problems associated with prolonged usage of this agent.
While the scientific body doesn’t produce more definite conclusions about these concerns, arguably the most effective approach to chronic pain management would be a multidisciplinary one.