Ketamine in depression and electroconvulsive therapy : Current Opinion in Anesthesiology

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NEUROANESTHESIA: Edited by Anthony R. Absalom

Ketamine in depression and electroconvulsive therapy

Rozet, Irene

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Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology 34(5):p 556-562, October 2021. | DOI: 10.1097/ACO.0000000000001039


Purpose of review 

The antidepressant effect of subanesthetic doses of ketamine was recognized 20 years ago. This review briefly summarizes the current understanding of the antidepressant mechanisms and the available clinical research on the use of racemic ketamine and enantiomer esketamine for depression.

Recent findings 

The antidepressant effect of subanesthetic doses of ketamine is currently considered to be predominantly mediated by improved neuroplasticity in cortico-limbic areas in the brain. Single dose of 0.5 mg/kg of ketamine infused intravenously over 40 min, or single intranasal dose of esketamine cause rapid antidepressant and antisuicidal effects within hours of administration, and the antidepressant effect may last up to a week. Repeated administration of nasal spray esketamine is considered to prevent relapse of depression. Longitudinal studies are currently insufficient. When used in various doses for anesthetic induction for electroconvulsive therapy, ketamine improves seizure quality and may possibly diminish posttherapy cognitive impairment.


A rapid onset antidepressive effect of ketamine and esketamine has been proven conclusively. The results of extensive basic science research of the mechanism of action of low-dose ketamine doses has led to an alternative hypothesis of the pathophysiology of depression and the development of a novel neurotrophic concept of depression. Further longitudinal studies are warranted to determine the safety and efficacy of repeated administration of ketamine and its analogs to prevent relapse and recurrence of depression.

Copyright © 2021 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.

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