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Ketamine Safety and Use in the Emergency Department for Pain and Agitation/Delirium: A Health System Experience.

INTRODUCTION: Two protocols were developed to guide the use of subdissociative dose ketamine (SDDK) for analgesia and dissociative sedation ketamine for severe agitation/excited delirium in the emergency department (ED). We sought to evaluate the safety of these protocols implemented in 18 EDs within a large health system.

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective chart review to evaluate all adult patients who received intravenous (IV) SDDK for analgesia and intramuscular (IM) dissociative sedation ketamine for severe agitation/excited delirium in 12 hospital-based and six freestanding EDs over a one-year period from the protocol implementation. We developed a standardized data collection form and used it to record patient information regarding ketamine use, concomitant medication use, and any comorbidities that could have impacted the incidence of adverse events.

RESULTS: Approximately 570,000 ED visits occurred during the study period. SDDK was used in 210 ED encounters, while dissociative sedation ketamine for severe agitation/excited delirium was used in 37 ED encounters. SDDK was used in 83% (15/18) of sites while dissociative sedation ketamine was used in 50% (9/18) of sites. Endotracheal intubation, non-rebreather mask, and nasal cannula ≥ four liters per minute were identified in one, five, and three patients, respectively. Neuropsychiatric adverse events were identified in 4% (9/210) of patients who received SDDK.

CONCLUSION: Patients experienced limited neuropsychiatric adverse events from SDDK. Additionally, dissociative sedation ketamine for severe agitation/excited delirium led to less endotracheal intubation than reported in the prehospital literature. The favorable safety profile of ketamine use in the ED may prompt further increases in usage.

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