Continuous subcutaneous administration of the N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor antagonist ketamine in the treatment of post-herpetic neuralgia

Pain. 1995 May;61(2):221-228. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(94)00182-E.


The effect of continuous subcutaneous (s.c.) infusion of ketamine on nerve injury pain was examined in patients with post-herpetic neuralgia. Five patients that reported pain relief after acute intravenous injection of ketamine were included in this open prospective study. Ketamine was administered continuously in increasing doses using a portable infusion pump (CADD-PLUS, Pharmacia), and the treatment period for each infusion rate (0.05, 0.075, 0.10, or 0.15 mg/kg/h) was 7 days and nights. Relief of continuous pain, as evaluated daily by visual analogue scales, was observed at the infusion rate of 0.05 mg/kg/h, but was most marked during infusion of 0.15 mg/kg/h. All the patients reported that ketamine reduced the severity of continuous pain as well as reduced the severity and number of attacks of spontaneous pain. Changes in evoked pain (allodynia and wind-up-like pain) were recorded before change of infusion rate. Allodynia was maximally reduced 59-100% after 1 week infusion of 0.05 mg/kg/h, and wind-up-like pain was maximally reduced 60-100% after 1 week infusion of 0.15 mg/kg/h. Itching and painful indurations at the injection site was the most bothersome side-effect and for this reason 1 patient discontinued treatment after 2 weeks. Other common side-effects were nausea, fatigue and dizziness. The present results show that continuous, spontaneous and evoked pain in patients with post-herpetic neuralgia is reduced by continuous s.c. infusion of ketamine, but is associated with intolerable side effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Herpesviridae Infections / complications*
  • Humans
  • Infusion Pumps, Implantable
  • Ketamine / administration & dosage*
  • Ketamine / adverse effects
  • Ketamine / analogs & derivatives
  • Ketamine / blood
  • Male
  • Neuralgia / blood
  • Neuralgia / drug therapy*
  • Neuralgia / etiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Ketamine
  • norketamine