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Ketamine as a Rapid Sequence Induction Agent in the Trauma Population

A Systematic Review

Baekgaard, Josefine S., MD*; Eskesen, Trine G., MSc*; Sillesen, Martin, MD, PhD; Rasmussen, Lars S., MD, PhD, DMSC*; Steinmetz, Jacob, MD, PhD*

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000003568
Trauma: Systematic Review Article

The choice of drug used to facilitate endotracheal intubation in trauma patients during rapid sequence induction (RSI) may have an impact on survival. Ketamine is commonly used in the hemodynamically unstable trauma patient although it has been associated with side effects. This review sought to investigate whether ketamine should be preferred over other induction agents for RSI in trauma patients. PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library were systematically searched on September 19, 2016 for studies reporting RSI of adult trauma patients with ketamine compared with another induction agent (etomidate, propofol, thiopental, or midazolam). No language restrictions were applied. The primary outcome was 30-day mortality, and secondary outcomes included information on blood transfusions, length of hospital stay, and hospital mortality. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias assessment tool for randomized trials and the Risk of Bias in Non-Randomized Studies of Interventions for nonrandomized studies of intervention. A total of 4 studies were included. A cohort study from 1976 compared thiopental (n = 26) with ketamine (n = 14) for RSI in trauma patients. The primary outcome was number of blood transfusions, and no significant difference was found. Risk of bias was judged to be serious. A randomized controlled trial from 2009 compared etomidate (n = 57) with ketamine (n = 47) and found no significant difference in 28-day mortality (odds ratio [OR], 0.8 [0.4–2.0]). The trial was judged to have a low risk of bias. Two cohort studies from 2015 and 2017 also compared etomidate (n = 116 and n = 526) with ketamine (n = 145 and n = 442). No significant difference in hospital mortality between the groups was observed (OR, 1.11 [0.38–3.27] and OR, 1.41 [0.91–2.16], respectively). Both studies were judged to have a moderate risk of bias, thus excluding the possibility of a meaningful meta-analysis. The study from 2017 also reported number of units of blood transfused during the first 48 hours after trauma and length of hospital stay. No significant differences were observed (OR, 1.14 [0.87–1.49] and OR, 1.1 [0.95–1.27], respectively). Extremely few studies have compared induction agents for RSI in trauma patients. No significant differences have been found in mortality, length of hospital stay, or number of blood transfusions after induction with ketamine compared to other induction agents, but a clinically relevant benefit or harm cannot be excluded.

From the *Department of Anesthesia, Center of Head and Orthopedics, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Department of Surgical Gastroenterology, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Published ahead of print 27 February 2018.

Accepted for publication February 27, 2018.

Funding: The study group received funding from “Tryg Foundation.” However, Tryg Foundation was not involved in any steps undertaken for this study.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s website.

Reprints will not be available from the authors.

Address correspondence to Josefine S. Baekgaard, MD, Department of Anaesthesia, Center of Head and Orthopedics, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Section 4231, Rigshospitalet, Juliane Maries Vej 10, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark. Address e-mail to

© 2019 International Anesthesia Research Society
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