Ketamine sedation for the reduction of children's fractures in the emergency department

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2000 Jul;82-A(7):912-8. doi: 10.2106/00004623-200007000-00002.


Background: There recently has been a resurgence in the utilization of ketamine, a unique anesthetic, for emergency-department procedures requiring sedation. The purpose of the present study was to examine the safety and efficacy of ketamine for sedation in the treatment of children's fractures in the emergency department.

Methods: One hundred and fourteen children (average age, 5.3 years; range, twelve months to ten years and ten months) who underwent closed reduction of an isolated fracture or dislocation in the emergency department at a level-I trauma center were prospectively evaluated. Ketamine hydrochloride was administered intravenously (at a dose of two milligrams per kilogram of body weight) in ninety-nine of the patients and intramuscularly (at a dose of four milligrams per kilogram of body weight) in the other fifteen. A board-certified emergency physician skilled in airway management supervised administration of the anesthetic, and the patients were monitored by a registered nurse. Any pain during the reduction was rated by the orthopaedic surgeon treating the patient according to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Pain Scale (CHEOPS).

Results: The average time from intravenous administration of ketamine to manipulation of the fracture or dislocation was one minute and thirty-six seconds (range, twenty seconds to five minutes), and the average time from intramuscular administration to manipulation was four minutes and forty-two seconds (range, sixty seconds to fifteen minutes). The average score according to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Pain Scale was 6.4 points (range, 5 to 10 points), reflecting minimal or no pain during fracture reduction. Adequate fracture reduction was obtained in 111 of the children. Ninety-nine percent (sixty-eight) of the sixty-nine parents present during the reduction were pleased with the sedation and would allow it to be used again in a similar situation. Patency of the airway and independent respiration were maintained in all of the patients. Blood pressure and heart rate remained stable. Minor side effects included nausea (thirteen patients), emesis (eight of the thirteen patients with nausea), clumsiness (evident as ataxic movements in ten patients), and dysphoric reaction (one patient). No long-term sequelae were noted, and no patients had hallucinations or nightmares.

Conclusions: Ketamine reliably, safely, and quickly provided adequate sedation to effectively facilitate the reduction of children's fractures in the emergency department at our institution. Ketamine should only be used in an environment such as the emergency department, where proper one-on-one monitoring is used and board-certified physicians skilled in airway management are directly involved in the care of the patient.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics / adverse effects
  • Anesthetics, Dissociative / administration & dosage*
  • Anesthetics, Dissociative / adverse effects
  • Ataxia / chemically induced
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Conscious Sedation / methods*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fractures, Closed / therapy*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Joint Dislocations / therapy
  • Ketamine / administration & dosage*
  • Ketamine / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / nursing
  • Nausea / chemically induced
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration
  • Safety
  • Time Factors
  • Vomiting / chemically induced


  • Analgesics
  • Anesthetics, Dissociative
  • Ketamine