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Background: Opioids are the mainstay of therapy for painful vasoocclusive episodes (VOEs) in sickle cell disease (SCD). Based on limited studies, low-dose ketamine could be a useful adjuvant analgesic for refractory SCD pain, but its safety and efficacy has not been evaluated in pediatric SCD.
Procedure: Using retrospective chart review we recorded and compared characteristics of hospitalizations of 33 children with SCD hospitalized with VOE who were treated with low-dose ketamine and opioid PCA vs. a paired hospitalization where the same patients received opioid PCA without ketamine. We seek to 1) describe a single center experience using adjuvant low-dose ketamine with opioid PCA for sickle cell related pain, 2) retrospectively explore the safety and efficacy of adjuvant low-dose ketamine for pain management, and 3) determine ketamine’s effect on opioid consumption in children and adolescents hospitalized with VOE.
Results: During hospitalizations where patients received ketamine, pain scores and opioid use were higher (6.48 vs. 5.99; p=0.002 and 0.040 mg/kg/h vs. 0.032 mg/kg/h; p=0.004 respectively) compared to hospitalizations without ketamine. In 3 patients, ketamine was discontinued due to temporary and reversible psychotomimetic effects. There were no additional short term side effects of ketamine.
Conclusions: Low-dose ketamine has an acceptable short-term safety profile for patients with SCD hospitalized for VOE. Lack of an opioid sparing effect of ketamine likely represents use of low-dose ketamine for patients presenting with more severe VOE pain. Prospective randomized studies of adjuvant low-dose ketamine for SCD pain are warranted to determine efficacy and long-term safety.