The effect of ketamine on intraocular pressure in pediatric patients during procedural sedation

Acad Emerg Med. 2012 Oct;19(10):1145-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2012.01450.x. Epub 2012 Sep 25.


Objectives: Ketamine is one of the most commonly used procedural sedation and analgesia (PSA) agents in pediatric emergency departments (PEDs). It is considered a very safe and reliable agent, with limited respiratory suppression, hemodynamic effects, and adverse outcomes. However, physicians are often reluctant to use ketamine for patients with eye injuries due to a concern that ketamine might increase intraocular pressure (IOP). The objective was to measure IOP in previously healthy children receiving ketamine for PSA for a reason other than eye injury.

Methods: This was a prospective noninferiority study of patients seen in an academic tertiary care children's hospital emergency department (ED) who required ketamine for PSA. The authors measured IOP in the right eye as soon as possible after ketamine had been administered and then at 2.5, 5, and 10 minutes after ketamine had been administered.

Results: Eighty patients were enrolled (28 between 1 and 5 years of age, 26 between 6 and 10 years, 26 between 11 and 15 years); 49 (61%) were male. Procedures requiring PSA included fracture/dislocation reduction (63%), abscess incision and drainage (16%), laceration repair (11%), dental abscess incision and drainage (6%), and other (4%). The mean total ketamine dosage was 1.6 mg/kg (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.4 to 1.7). The mean initial IOP was 17.5 mm Hg (95% CI = 16.4 to 18.6 mm Hg) and at 2.5 minutes was 18.9 mm Hg (95% CI = 17.9 to 19.9 mm Hg). The mean difference was 1.4 mm Hg (95% CI = 0.4 to 2.4 mm Hg). Using a noninferiority margin of 2.6 mm Hg (15%), noninferiority (no significant elevation in IOP) was demonstrated with 95% confidence between the first and second readings.

Conclusions: Ketamine does not significantly increase IOP in pediatric patients without eye injuries receiving typical PSA dosages in the PED. Further study should assess its safety in patients with ocular injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anesthetics, Dissociative / administration & dosage
  • Anesthetics, Dissociative / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intraocular Pressure / drug effects*
  • Ketamine / administration & dosage
  • Ketamine / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies


  • Anesthetics, Dissociative
  • Ketamine