A pilot open-label study of the efficacy of subanesthetic isomeric S(+)-ketamine in refractory CRPS patients

Ralph-Thomas Kiefer, Peter Rohr, Annette Ploppa, Boris Nohé, Hans-Jürgen Dieterich, John Grothusen, Karl-Heinz Altemeyer, Klaus Unertl, Robert J Schwartzman
Pain Medicine 2008, 9 (1): 44-54

OBJECTIVE: Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a severe neuropathic pain state that is often disproportionate to the initial trauma. Associated features are autonomic dysregulation, swelling, motor dysfunction, and trophic changes to varying degrees. Despite a multitude of treatment modalities, a subgroup of CRPS patients remain refractory to all standard therapies. In these patients, the disease may spread extraterritorially, which results in severe disability. A critical involvement of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) has been demonstrated both clinically and by animal experimentation. NMDA antagonists may be effective in many neuropathic pain states. In long-standing, generalized CRPS, we investigated the effects of S(+)-ketamine on pain relief and somatosensory features, assessed by quantitative sensory testing (QST).

METHODS: Four refractory CRPS patients received continous S(+)-ketamine-infusions, gradually titrated (50 mg/day-500 mg/day) over a 10-day period. Pain intensities (average, peak, and least pain) and side effects were rated on visual analogue scales, during a 4-day baseline, over 10 treatment days, and 2 days following treatment. QST (thermo-, mechanical detection, and pain thresholds) was analyzed at baseline and following treatment.

RESULTS: Subanesthetic S(+)-ketamine showed no reduction of pain and effected no change in thermo- and mechanical detection or pain thresholds. This procedure caused no relevant side effects. The lack of therapeutic response in the first four patients led to termination of this pilot study.

CONCLUSION: S(+)-ketamine can be gradually titrated to large doses (500 mg/day) without clinically relevant side effects. There was no pain relief or change in QST measurements in this series of long-standing severe CRPS patients.

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