Could ketamine replace morphine for acute pain?

Researchers find ketamine is just as good as opioids for treating ED patients

Low-dose ketamine appears to be as effective as opioids for treating acute pain in ED, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis.

As many as 78% of ED visits include pain as a presenting complaint, and opioids are commonly used to treat that pain.

But now, in response to the ongoing epidemic of opioid misuse, several research groups are studying alternative analgesics in this setting.

In this latest study of three randomised controlled trials that enrolled 261 patients, a team from Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri, compared the analgesic effect of IV low-dose ketamine (LDK, 0.5mg/kg or less per dose) vs IV opioids in patients with acute pain.

None of the trials found a clinically significant difference in pain score reduction between ketamine and morphine, the team reports in Academic Emergency Medicine.