Adjunctive ketamine for sedation in critically ill mechanically ventilated patients: an active-controlled, pilot, feasibility clinical trial

J Intensive Care. 2021 Aug 30;9(1):54. doi: 10.1186/s40560-021-00569-1.


Objective: Ketamine has been shown to decrease sedative requirements in intensive care unit (ICU). Randomized trials are limited on patient-centered outcomes. We designed this pilot trial to evaluate the feasibility of a large randomized controlled trial (RCT) testing the effect of ketamine as an adjunct analgosedative compared with standard of care alone as a control group (CG) in critically ill patients with mechanical ventilation (MV). We also provided preliminary evidence on clinically relevant outcomes to plan a larger trial.

Material and methods: Pilot, active-controlled, open-label RCT was conducted at medical, surgical, and transplant ICUs at a large tertiary and quaternary care medical institution (King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Saudi Arabia). The study included adult patients who were intubated within 24 h, expected to require MV for the next calendar day, and had institutional pain and sedation protocol initiated. Patients were randomized in a 1:1 ratio to adjunct ketamine infusion 1-2 μg/kg/min for 48 h or CG alone.

Results: Of 437 patients screened from September 2019 through November 2020, 83 (18.9%) patients were included (43 in CG and 40 in ketamine) and 352 (80.5%) were excluded. Average enrollment rate was 3-4 patients/month. Consent and protocol adherence rates were adequate (89.24% and 76%, respectively). Demographics were balanced between groups. Median MV duration was 7 (interquartile range [IQR] 3-9.25 days) in ketamine and 5 (IQR 2-8 days) in CG. Median VFDs was 19 (IQR 0-24.75 days) in ketamine and 19 (IQR 0-24 days) in the CG (p = 0.70). More patients attained goal Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale at 24 and 48 h in ketamine (67.5% and 73.5%, respectively) compared with CG (52.4% and 66.7%, respectively). Sedatives and vasopressors cumulative use, and hemodynamic changes were similar. ICU length-of-stay was 12.5 (IQR 6-21.2 days) in ketamine, compared with 12 (IQR 5.5-23 days) in CG. No serious adverse events were observed in either group.

Conclusions: Ketamine as an adjunct analgosedative agent appeared to be feasible and safe with no negative impact on outcomes, including hemodynamics. This pilot RCT identified areas of improvement in study protocol before conducting a large, adequately powered, multicenter RCT which is likely justified to investigate ketamine association with patient-centered outcomes further. Trial registration NCT04075006. Registered on 30 August 2019. Current controlled trials: ISRCTN14730035. Registered on 3 February 2020.

Keywords: ATTAINMENT; Critical care; Ketamine; Mechanical ventilation; Pilot; Sedation; Standard of care.

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN14730035