What urologists need to know about ketamine-induced uropathy: A systematic review

Neurourol Urodyn. 2020 Apr;39(4):1049-1062. doi: 10.1002/nau.24341. Epub 2020 Mar 25.


Aims: Ketamine is a general anesthetic. Dissociative effects and low cost led ketamine becoming an illegal recreational drug in young adults. Ketamine-induced uropathy (KIU) is one of the complications observed in abusers. This study aimed to provide a systematic literature review on KIU clinical presentation, pathophysiology, and treatments.

Methods: We performed the literature search in PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, and Embase using the terms ketamine and bladder. English papers on human and animal studies were accepted.

Results: A total of 75 papers were selected. Regular ketamine users complain about severe storage symptoms and pelvic pain. Hydronephrosis may develop in long-term abusers and is correlated to the contracted bladder, ureteral stenosis, or vesicoureteral reflux due to ureteral involvement and/or bladder fibrosis. Cystoscopy shows ulcerative cystitis. Ketamine in urine might exert direct toxicity to the urothelium, disrupting its barrier function and enhancing cell apoptosis. The presence of ketamine/ions in the bladder wall result in neurogenic/IgE-mediated inflammation, stimulation of the inducible nitric oxide synthase-cytokines-cyclooxygenase pathway with persistent inflammation and fibrosis. Abstinence is the first therapeutic step. Anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics and anticholinergics, intravesical instillation of hyaluronic acid, hydrodistension and intravesical injection of botulin toxin-A were helpful in patients with early-stage KIU. In patients with end-stage disease, the control of intractable symptoms and the increase of bladder capacity were the main recommendations to perform augmentation enterocystoplasty.

Conclusions: KIU is becoming a worldwide health concern, which should be taken into account in the differential diagnosis of ulcerative cystitis.

Keywords: cystitis; inflammation; ketamine; lower urinary tract symptoms; substance-related disorders; urinary tract.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / adverse effects*
  • Cystitis / chemically induced*
  • Cystitis / diagnosis*
  • Cystoscopy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Ketamine / adverse effects*
  • Substance-Related Disorders*
  • Urologists


  • Analgesics
  • Ketamine