Oral ketamine for sickle cell crisis pain refractory to opioids

J Pain Palliat Care Pharmacother. 2013 Jun;27(2):150-4. doi: 10.3109/15360288.2013.788599. Epub 2013 May 21.


There is literature demonstrating that the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist ketamine has analgesic properties that can be used as an adjuvant to opiates for pain relief in multiple various conditions and pain states. However, there is a lack of published information on ketamine used in persons with sickle cell disease in acute pain crises. The Virginia Commonwealth University Palliative Care team was consulted on a 38-year-old African American female with sickle cell thalassemia in severe acute pain crisis overlying chronic pain related to her disease. Pain control was unable to be achieved with escalating doses of opiates and other adjuvant medications. The patient responded well to an intravenous test dose of ketamine and was subsequently placed on an oral regimen of ketamine in addition to opiates. In the 24-hour period following ketamine initiation, the patient's pain was able to be controlled on decreased amounts of opiates. She was eventually transitioned to an oral opiate and ketamine regimen, which allowed her to be discharged home with pain levels close to her baseline and the ability to function and perform all activities of daily living.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Acute Pain / drug therapy*
  • Acute Pain / etiology
  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / complications*
  • Black or African American
  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ketamine / administration & dosage
  • Ketamine / therapeutic use*
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Thalassemia / complications


  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Ketamine