Safety of sedation with ketamine in severe head injury patients: comparison with sufentanil

Crit Care Med. 2003 Mar;31(3):711-7. doi: 10.1097/01.CCM.0000044505.24727.16.


Objective: The aim of the study was to compare the safety concerning cerebral hemodynamics of ketamine and sufentanil used for sedation of severe head injury patients, both drugs being used in combination with midazolam.

Design: Prospective, randomized, double-blind study.

Setting: Intensive care unit in a trauma center.

Patients: Twenty-five patients with severe head injury.

Interventions: Twelve patients received sedation with a continuous infusion of ketamine-midazolam and 13 with a continuous infusion of sufentanil-midazolam. All patients were mechanically ventilated with moderate hyperventilation.

Measurements and main results: Prognostic indicators (age, Glasgow Coma Scale scores, computed tomography diagnosis, and Injury Severity Scale score) were similar in the two groups at study entry. Measurements were carried out during the first 4 days of sedation. The average infusion rates during this time were 82 +/- 25 micro x kg x min ketamine and 1.64 +/- 0.5 microg x kg x min midazolam in the ketamine group and 0.008 +/- 0.002 microg x kg x min sufentanil and 1.63 +/- 0.37 microg x kg x min midazolam in the sufentanil group. No significant differences were observed between the two groups in the mean daily values of intracranial pressure and cerebral perfusion pressure. The numbers of intracranial pressure elevations were similar in both groups. The requirements of neuromuscular blocking agents, propofol, and thiopental were similar. Heart rate values were significantly higher in the ketamine group on therapy days 3 and 4 ( <.05). With regard to arterial pressure control, more fluids were given on the first therapy day and there was a trend toward greater use of vasopressors in the sufentanil group. Sedative costs were similar in the two groups.

Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that ketamine in combination with midazolam is comparable with a combination of midazolam-sufentanil in maintaining intracranial pressure and cerebral perfusion pressure of severe head injury patients placed under controlled mechanical ventilation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anesthetics, Dissociative / pharmacology
  • Anesthetics, Dissociative / therapeutic use*
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / pharmacology
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / therapeutic use*
  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects
  • Conscious Sedation / adverse effects
  • Conscious Sedation / methods*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Monitoring
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Hemodynamics / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Intracranial Pressure / drug effects
  • Ketamine / pharmacology
  • Ketamine / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Midazolam / pharmacology
  • Midazolam / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Safety*
  • Sufentanil / pharmacology
  • Sufentanil / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anesthetics, Dissociative
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Ketamine
  • Sufentanil
  • Midazolam