Ten patients (4 female, 6 male) aged 34-67 years suffering from peripheral neuropathic pain participated in a double-blind placebo-controlled study where ketamine or magnesium chloride were administered by a 10 min bolus infusion (ketamine: 0.84 mumol/kg = 0.2 mg/kg, magnesium: 0.16 mmol/kg) followed by a continuous infusion (ketamine: 1.3 mumol/kg/h = 0.3 mg/kg/h, magnesium: 0.16 mmol/kg/h). Ongoing pain determined by VAS score, area of touch-evoked allodynia, detection and pain thresholds to mechanical and thermal stimuli were measured before and during drug infusion. Ketamine produced a significant reduction of spontaneous pain (57%) and of the area of allodynia (33%). Magnesium chloride reduced pain (29%) and area of allodynia (18%) insignificantly. Following ketamine there was a significant correlation between the reduction in ongoing pain and reduction in area of touch-evoked allodynia. Detection and pain thresholds to mechanical and thermal stimuli were not significantly changed by the drugs. These findings suggest that both ongoing pain and touch-evoked pain (allodynia) in neuropathic pain are inter-related phenomena, which may be mediated by the same mechanism and involving a N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor.