Analgesic Efficacy of Intranasal Ketamine Versus Intranasal Fentanyl for Moderate to Severe Pain in Children: A Prospective, Randomized, Double-Blind Study

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2021 May 1;37(5):250-254. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001556.


Purpose: This study aimed to compare analgesic efficacy of intranasal (IN) ketamine to IN fentanyl for moderate to severe pain in children in a pediatric emergency department.

Methods: A prospective, randomized, double-blinded, noninferiority study evaluating children aged 3 to 17 years in a pediatric emergency department with acute moderate to severe pain was conducted. Patients received either 1 mg/kg of IN ketamine or 1.5 μg/kg of IN fentanyl and were evaluated after 10, 20, 30, and 60 minutes. The primary outcome was the degree of pain reduction after 20 minutes.

Results: Twenty-two patients were enrolled (11 in each group). Underlying pain conditions represented were musculoskeletal injury (73%) and abdominal pain (27%). At 20 minutes after analgesia, there was no significant difference in pain scores between the fentanyl (median, 2; range, 0-8) and ketamine groups (median, 4; range, 0-7; P = 0.20). The ketamine group showed a significantly greater rate of adverse effects, 73% versus 9% (P = 0.002), and throughout the course of the study period, 7 patients in the ketamine group (64%) group showed some degree of sedation versus no one in the fentanyl group (P = 0.004).

Conclusions: There was insufficient power to support the analgesic noninferiority of IN ketamine at a dose of 1 mg/kg compared with IN fentanyl at a dose of 1.5 μg/kg in children experiencing painful conditions at 20 minutes after administration. Intranasal ketamine was found to be inferior to IN fentanyl in relieving pain at 10 minutes and was found to have significantly greater rates of sedation and dizziness.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Adolescent
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Fentanyl / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Ketamine* / therapeutic use
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prospective Studies


  • Analgesics
  • Ketamine
  • Fentanyl