Introduction and objectives: The impact of multiple subcutaneous (s.c.) esketamine injections on the blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) of patients with unipolar and bipolar treatment-resistant depression (TRD) is poorly understood. This study aimed to assess the cardiovascular safety of multiple s.c. doses of esketamine in patients with TRD.
Methods: Seventy TRD patients received 394 weekly s.c. esketamine injections in conjunction with oral antidepressant therapy for up to six weeks. Weekly esketamine doses were 0.5, 0.75 or 1.0 mg/kg according to each patient's response to treatment. Participants were monitored before each treatment and every 15 minutes thereafter for 120 minutes. We assessed systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and HR measurements for the entire treatment course.
Results: BP increased after the first s.c. esketamine injection, reaching maximum mean SBP/DBP levels of 4.87/5.54 mmHg within 30-45 minutes. At the end of monitoring, 120 minutes post dose, vital signs returned to pretreatment levels. We did not detect significant differences in BP between doses of 0.5, 0.75, and 1 mg/kg esketamine. Mean HR did not differ significantly between doses or before and after s.c. esketamine injection.
Conclusions: The BP changes observed with repeated s.c. esketamine injections were mild and well tolerated for doses up to 1 mg/kg. The s.c. route is a simple and safe method of esketamine administration, even for patients with clinical comorbidities, including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia. However, 14/70 patients experienced treatment-emergent transient hypertension (SBP >180 mmHg and/or a DBP >110 mmHg). Therefore, we strongly recommend monitoring BP for 90 minutes after esketamine dosing. Since s.c. esketamine is cheap, requires less frequent dosing (once a week), and is a simpler procedure compared to intravenous infusions, it might have an impact on public health.
Keywords: Esketamine; multiple doses; subcutaneous; treatment-resistant depression.