DrR was Right? Adding ketamine to morphine patient-controlled analgesia safely improves pain

Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2012 Feb;14(2):194-9. Epub 2011 Nov 28.

Does adding ketamine to morphine patient-controlled analgesia safely improve post-thoracotomy pain?


Department of Thoracic Surgery, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. timjmathews@gmail.com


A best evidence topic in thoracic surgery was written according to a structured protocol. The question addressed was ‘is the addition of ketamine to morphine patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) following thoracic surgery superior to morphine alone’. Altogether 201 papers were found using the reported search, of which nine represented the best evidence to answer the clinical question. The authors, journal, date and country of publication, patient group studied, study type, relevant outcomes and results of these papers are tabulated. This consisted of one systematic review of PCA morphine with ketamine (PCA-MK) trials, one meta-analysis of PCA-MK trials, four randomized controlled trials of PCA-MK, one meta-analysis of trials using a variety of peri-operative ketamine regimes and two cohort studies of PCA-MK. Main outcomes measured included pain score rated on visual analogue scale, morphine consumption and incidence of psychotomimetic side effects/hallucination. Two papers reported the measurements of respiratory function. This evidence shows that adding ketamine to morphine PCA is safe, with a reported incidence of hallucination requiring intervention of 2.9%, and a meta-analysis finding an incidence of all central nervous system side effects of 18% compared with 15% with morphine alone, P = 0.31, RR 1.27 with 95% CI (0.8-2.01). All randomized controlled trials of its use following thoracic surgery found no hallucination or psychological side effect. All five studies in thoracic surgery (n = 243) found reduced morphine requirements with PCA-MK. Pain scores were significantly lower in PCA-MK patients in thoracic surgery papers, with one paper additionally reporting increased patient satisfaction. However, no significant improvement was found in a meta-analysis of five papers studying PCA-MK in a variety of surgical settings. Both papers reporting respiratory outcomes found improved oxygen saturations and PaCO(2) levels in PCA-MK patients following thoracic surgery. We conclude that adding low-dose ketamine to morphine PCA is safe and post-thoracotomy may provide better pain control than PCA with morphine alone (PCA-MO), with reduced morphine consumption and possible improvement in respiratory function. These studies thus support the routine use of PCA-MK instead of PCA-MO to improve post-thoracotomy pain control.


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