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What Is Ketamine Used For?

How Does This Medicine Work?

It is not entirely known how ketamine works. It is known that the medicine works on certain brain pathways to quickly produce a general state of anesthesia (loss of sensation and awareness) and pain relief. Unlike many other general anesthetics, ketamine maintains respiration (breathing) and a normal or slightly increased muscle tone.

Is It Safe for Older Adults to Receive Ketamine?

Ketamine is approved for use in older adults. In general, there are no well-established differences in how older and younger age groups respond to this anesthetic. However, because older adults are more likely to have chronic medical conditions and to be taking multiple medications, ketamine may need to be used more cautiously and at a lower starting dose in older adults.

Is It Safe for Children?

Ketamine is approved for use in children age 16 and older. It has not been adequately studied in younger age groups. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about the particular benefits and risks of using this drug in children.

Are There Off-Label Reasons to Use Ketamine?

On occasion, your healthcare provider may recommend this anesthetic for something other than the uses discussed in this article. This would be known as an "off-label" use. Some possible off-label uses for ketamine include the treatment of:
  • Postanesthetic shivering (uncomfortable shivering that occurs after anesthesia)
  • Postherpetic neuralgia
  • Bronchospasm 
  • Pain, such as cancer pain, chronic pain, or postoperative pain
  • Migraine headaches
  • Major depression that is not responding to other treatments.
Alternative Therapies for Pain Management

Ketamine Drug Information

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