Ketamine-induced urological toxicity: potential mechanisms and translation for adults with mood disorders receiving ketamine treatment

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2021 Apr;238(4):917-926. doi: 10.1007/s00213-021-05767-1. Epub 2021 Jan 23.


Intravenous (IV) ketamine has been shown to have rapid and robust antidepressant effects in adults with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Urological toxicity has been observed in chronic ketamine abusers as evidenced by dysuria, urgency, and hematuria. The foregoing observation provides the basis for evaluating whether ketamine-induced urological toxicity (KIUT) is associated with sub-anesthetic doses of ketamine (0.5-1.0 mg/kg) in adults with mood disorders. The overarching objective of this article is to identify potential mechanisms of KIUT which appears to be dose and frequency dependent. Available research indicates that high-frequency ketamine is associated with disruption of the urothelial barrier as well as direct ketamine toxicity (i.e., decreased expression of junction proteins) in KIUT of the bladder. Chronic and high-frequency ketamine use is also associated with bladder inflammation mediated via neurogenic and IgE inflammation. Other non-mutually exclusive causes are nerve hyperplasia, hypersensitivity, cell apoptosis, microvascular damage, and overexpression of carcinogenic genes. Notwithstanding the evidence of KIUT in ketamine abusers, there is no evidence that ketamine and/or esketamine treatment in adults with mood disorders is associated with KIUT. However, all patients receiving ketamine/esketamine for mood disorder treatment should be queried about genitourinary symptoms during acute and, where applicable, maintenance dosing.

Keywords: Bipolar disorder; CRTCE; Depression; Esketamine; Ketamine; Major depressive disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Ketamine / administration & dosage*
  • Ketamine / adverse effects
  • Mood Disorders / drug therapy*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Esketamine
  • Ketamine