Rapid and longer-term antidepressant effects of repeated-dose intravenous ketamine for patients with unipolar and bipolar depression

Wei Zheng, Yan-Ling Zhou, Wei-Jian Liu, Cheng-Yu Wang, Yan-Ni Zhan, Han-Qiu Li, Li-Jian Chen, Ming Ding Li, Yu-Ping Ning
Journal of Psychiatric Research 2018, 106: 61-68

OBJECTIVE: Single-dose intravenous (IV) injection of ketamine has shown rapid but transient antidepressant effects. The strategy of repeated-dose ketamine infusions to maintain antidepressant effects has received little systematic study. This study was conducted to examine the efficacy and tolerability of six ketamine infusions in Chinese patients with unipolar and bipolar depression.

METHODS: Ninety seven patients with unipolar (n = 77) and bipolar (n = 20) depression received repeated ketamine infusions (0.5 mg/kg over 40 min) with continuous vital sign monitoring. Depressive symptoms were measured by the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). Suicidal ideation was assessed using the Scale for Suicidal Ideations (SSI)-part 1. Anxiety symptoms were evaluated with the 14-item Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAMA). Adverse psychopathological and dissociative effects were assessed using the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS)-positive symptoms and Clinician Administered Dissociative States Scale (CADSS), respectively. Patients were assessed at baseline, 4 and 24 h, and 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 26 days.

RESULTS: After six ketamine infusions, the response and remission rates were 68.0% and 50.5%, respectively. There were significant decreases in MADRS, SSI-part 1, and HAMA scores within four hours following the first ketamine infusion, and the decreases were sustained over the subsequent infusion period. The nonresponder subgroup manifested rapid significant improvement in suicidal ideations throughout the course of treatment. After the six ketamine infusions, the response was positively associated with the response at 24 h after the first infusion (OR = 8.94), personal income ≥4000 yuan/month (OR = 3.04), and no history of psychiatric hospitalization (OR = 3.41). Only CADSS scores had a mild but marginally significant increase after the first infusion but with a significant BPRS score decrease.

CONCLUSION: Six ketamine infusions were safe and effective in patients with unipolar and bipolar depression. The rapid and robust antidepressant and antisuicidal effects of ketamine infusion within four hours were sustained following the subsequent infusions.

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