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      Ketamine for chronic pain: risks and benefits.

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          Abstract

          The anaesthetic ketamine is used to treat various chronic pain syndromes, especially those that have a neuropathic component. Low dose ketamine produces strong analgesia in neuropathic pain states, presumably by inhibition of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor although other mechanisms are possibly involved, including enhancement of descending inhibition and anti-inflammatory effects at central sites. Current data on short term infusions indicate that ketamine produces potent analgesia during administration only, while three studies on the effect of prolonged infusion (4-14 days) show long-term analgesic effects up to 3 months following infusion. The side effects of ketamine noted in clinical studies include psychedelic symptoms (hallucinations, memory defects, panic attacks), nausea/vomiting, somnolence, cardiovascular stimulation and, in a minority of patients, hepatoxicity. The recreational use of ketamine is increasing and comes with a variety of additional risks ranging from bladder and renal complications to persistent psychotypical behaviour and memory defects. Blind extrapolation of these risks to clinical patients is difficult because of the variable, high and recurrent exposure to the drug in ketamine abusers and the high frequency of abuse of other illicit substances in this population. In clinical settings, ketamine is well tolerated, especially when benzodiazepines are used to tame the psychotropic side effects. Irrespective, close monitoring of patients receiving ketamine is mandatory, particularly aimed at CNS, haemodynamic, renal and hepatic symptoms as well as abuse. Further research is required to assess whether the benefits outweigh the risks and costs. Until definite proof is obtained ketamine administration should be restricted to patients with therapy-resistant severe neuropathic pain.

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          Most cited references 66

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          Role of the immune system in chronic pain.

          During the past two decades, an important focus of pain research has been the study of chronic pain mechanisms, particularly the processes that lead to the abnormal sensitivity - spontaneous pain and hyperalgesia - that is associated with these states. For some time it has been recognized that inflammatory mediators released from immune cells can contribute to these persistent pain states. However, it has only recently become clear that immune cell products might have a crucial role not just in inflammatory pain, but also in neuropathic pain caused by damage to peripheral nerves or to the CNS.
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            A flood of opioids, a rising tide of deaths.

             Susan Okie (2010)
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              Algorithm for neuropathic pain treatment: an evidence based proposal.

              New studies of the treatment of neuropathic pain have increased the need for an updated review of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials to support an evidence based algorithm to treat neuropathic pain conditions. Available studies were identified using a MEDLINE and EMBASE search. One hundred and five studies were included. Numbers needed to treat (NNT) and numbers needed to harm (NNH) were used to compare efficacy and safety of the treatments in different neuropathic pain syndromes. The quality of each trial was assessed. Tricyclic antidepressants and the anticonvulsants gabapentin and pregabalin were the most frequently studied drug classes. In peripheral neuropathic pain, the lowest NNT was for tricyclic antidepressants, followed by opioids and the anticonvulsants gabapentin and pregabalin. For central neuropathic pain there is limited data. NNT and NNH are currently the best way to assess relative efficacy and safety, but the need for dichotomous data, which may have to be estimated retrospectively for old trials, and the methodological complexity of pooling data from small cross-over and large parallel group trials, remain as limitations.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Br J Clin Pharmacol
                British journal of clinical pharmacology
                1365-2125
                0306-5251
                Feb 2014
                : 77
                : 2
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Department of Anesthesiology, Leiden University Medical Center, RC Leiden, the Netherlands.
                Article
                10.1111/bcp.12094
                23432384
                db4a9496-e929-461d-b6b0-fc8fe719c917
                © 2013 The Authors. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology © 2013 The British Pharmacological Society.

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