Purpose: Ketamine is a N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist with strong analgesic properties. Its addition to the treatment of neuropathic pain may reduce pain intensity and improve overall quality of life. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials was performed to investigate the addition of ketamine to the treatment of patients with neuropathic pain.
Patients and Methods: GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) approach was used to rate the overall certainty of the evidence for each outcome. Eighteen (18) randomized controlled trials including 706 participants were included for further analysis.
Results: Ketamine addition to standard treatment of neuropathic pain (NP) resulted in a statistically significant reduction of pain intensity at one week after the end of treatment with ketamine (MD -2.14, 95% CI -2.65 to -1.63; p<0.00001) and after 30 days after the end of treatment with ketamine (MD -1.68, 95% CI -2.25 to -1.12; p<0.00001) and a statistically significant increase in discomfort (RR 4.06; 95% CI 1.18 to 13.95; p=0.03), and psychedelic effects (RR 4.94; 95% CI 2.76 to 8.84; p<0.00001).
Conclusion: There is a statistically significant pain reduction by adding ketamine to the treatment of chronic NP when compared to the standard treatment. However, such pain reduction comes at the expense of adverse outcomes, especially psychedelic effects related to the administration of ketamine. However, the overall quality of certainty of evidence is low due to the clinical heterogeneity among the intervention characteristics of the trials analyzed (different administration routes, dosing regimen, therapy durations, different clinical characteristics of the population investigated). Future large multi-centered trials are necessary to confirm or not the results of the present review.