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The Use of Ketamine as an Adjunct to Treating Opioid Refractory Cancer-Related Pain in the Emergency Department

Brockett-Walker, Camille, DNP, FNP-BC, AGACNP-BC

Section Editor(s): Evans, Dian Dowling PhD, FNP-BC, ENP-C, FAANP, FAAN; Column Editor

Advanced Emergency Nursing Journal: April/June 2019 - Volume 41 - Issue 2 - p 101–106
doi: 10.1097/TME.0000000000000244

The Research to Practice column is designed to provide advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with an analysis of a current research topic with implications for practice change within the emergency care settings. This review examines a recent study conducted by K. J. Bowers, K. B. McAllister, M. Ray, and C. Heitz (2017) entitled “Ketamine as an adjunct to opioids for acute pain in the emergency department: A randomized controlled trial.” The authors conducted a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial at a single academic emergency department (ED) to compare standard opioid pain control in the ED population to the use of ketamine in conjunction with opioids in the same population. Participants were randomized into either the ketamine group, receiving 0.1 mg/kg of ketamine in conjunction with an intravenous opioid, or to the control group, receiving an equivalent volume of normal saline in addition to an intravenous opioid. Participants were evaluated for adequacy of pain control, side effects, and level of sedation every 30 min up to the 120-min time point. Data revealed that patients receiving ketamine had a statistically significant lower mean pain score, 0.6512 (p = 0.0083), compared with patients in the control group. The data also showed that patient satisfaction with pain control was similar for the ketamine group and the control group. These and other associated findings have implications for APRN practice, including managing acute pain in the ED setting and preventing hospital admission of acute-on-chronic pain exacerbations in the ED.

Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory University, and Winship Cancer Institute, Emory Healthcare, Atlanta, Georgia.

Corresponding Author: Camille Brockett-Walker, DNP, FNP-BC, AGACNP-BC, Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, 1520 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30322 (

Disclosure: The author reports no conflicts of interest.

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