A Novel Use of Topical Ketamine for the Treatment of Oral Pemphigus: A Case Report

J Palliat Care. 2021 Jul;36(3):146-147. doi: 10.1177/0825859720946504. Epub 2020 Jul 27.


Background: Paraneoplastic pemphigus (PNP) is a rare autoimmune blistering disease often associated with lymphoproliferative disorders. PNP causes hemorrhagic stomatitis of the lips, tongue, and cheeks which can be painful and difficult to treat.

Case history: A 54-year-old man was referred to our hospital for treatment of Stage IV lymphoma and paraneoplastic pemphigus. Due to pain from oral stomatitis, he required a gastrostomy tube for delivery of nutritional tube feeds. He was placed on steroids and received both lidocaine mouthwash and opioids, but his pain persisted.

Case management and outcome: A palliative care consult was obtained for management of his pain. The palliative team recommended topical ketamine for the treatment of the painful lip lesions. The patient felt immediate relief with the application of ketamine and his pain level was reduced to a 5/10. The following day, his pain was 0/10. Five days later, the opioids were discontinued and the pain relief continued.

Conclusion: Painful stomatitis from PNP may be refractory to standard treatment. We found that the application of topical ketamine was very effective in this patient with hemorrhagic stomatitis from PNP.

Keywords: bullous pemphigus; ketamine; pain; palliative care; stomatitis; topical.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Ketamine / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / drug therapy
  • Pemphigus / drug therapy*
  • Stomatitis


  • Ketamine