Subdissociative intranasal ketamine plus standard pain therapy versus standard pain therapy in the treatment of paediatric sickle cell disease vaso-occlusive crises in resource-limited settings: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial

BMJ Open. 2017 Jul 10;7(7):e017190. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017190.


Introduction: Pediatric sickle cell disease, highly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, carries great morbidity and mortality risk. Limited resources and monitoring make management of acute vaso-occlusive crises challenging. This study aims to evaluate the efficacy and safety of subdissociative intranasal ketamine as a cheap, readily available and easily administered adjunct to standard pain therapy. We hypothesise that subdissociative, intranasal ketamine may significantly augment current approaches to pain management in resource-limited settings in a safe and cost-effective manner.

Methods and analysis: This is a multicentred, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial enrolling children 4-16 years of age with sickle cell disease and painful vaso-occlusive pain crises. Study sites include two sub-Saharan teaching and referral hospitals with acute intake areas. All patients receive standard analgesic therapy during evaluation. Patients randomised to the treatment arm receive 1 mg/kg intranasal ketamine at onset of therapy, while placebo arm participants receive volume-matched intranasal normal saline. All participants and clinical staff are blinded to the treatment allocation. Data will be analysed on an intention-to-treat basis. Primary endpoints are changes in self-report pain scales (Faces Pain Scale-Revised) at 30, 60 and 120 minutes and rates of adverse events. Secondary endpoints include hospital length of stay, total analgesia use and quality of life assessment 2-3 weeks postintervention.

Ethics and dissemination: The research methods for this study have been approved by the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board Institutional Review Board (IRB2015-07), the Tanzanian National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR/HQ/R.8a/Vol. IX/2299), Muhimbili National Hospital IRB (MNH/IRB/I/2015/14) and the Tanzanian Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA0015/CTR/0015/9). Data reports will be provided to the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) periodically throughout the study as well as all reports of adverse events. All protocol amendments will also be reviewed by the DSMB. Study results, regardless of direction or amplitude, will be submitted for publication in relevant peer-reviewed journals.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.Gov, NCT02573714. Date of registration: 8 October 2015. Pre-results.

Keywords: Intranasal; Ketamine; Opioids; Pain; Vasoocclusive crisis; sickle cell disease.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Adolescent
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / complications*
  • Cameroon
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ketamine / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain Management
  • Pain Measurement
  • Quality of Life
  • Research Design
  • Tanzania
  • Vascular Diseases / physiopathology*


  • Analgesics
  • Ketamine

Associated data