UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Pharmacology & Therapeutics

Title: Ketamine vs. Morphine for Analgesia in the ED

Keywords: ketamine, analgesia, morphine, pain (PubMed Search)

Posted: 8/30/2015 by Bryan Hayes, PharmD (Emailed: 9/5/2015) (Updated: 9/5/2015)
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A new prospective, randomized, double-blind trial compared subdissociative ketamine to morphine for acute pain in the ED.

What they did

  • 45 patients received IV ketamine 0.3 mg/kg (mean baseline pain score 8.6)
  • 45 patients received IV morphine 0.1 mg/kg (mean baseline pain score 8.5)
  • Source of pain was abdominal for ~70% in each group
  • Exclusion criteria was pretty standard

What they found

  • Pain score at 30 minutes: 4.1 for ketamine vs. 3.9 for morphine (p = 0.97)
  • No difference in the incidence of rescue fentanyl analgesia at 30 or 60 minutes
  • No serious adverse events occurred in either group
  • Patients in the ketamine group reported increased minor adverse effects at 15 minutes post-drug administration
Application to clinical practice
  1. In an effort to reduce opioid use in the ED, low-dose ketamine may be a reasonable alternative to opioids for acute analgesia.
  2. State nursing regulations govern who can administer IV ketamine in the ED.
  3. What to prescribe on discharge? Lead author Dr. Motov recommends a "pain syndrome targeted" approach with "patient-specific opioid and non-opioid analgesics."


Motov S, et al. Intravenous subdissociative-dose ketamine versus morphine for analgesia in the emergency department: a randomized controlled trial. Ann Emerg Med 2015;66:222-9. [PMID 25817884]

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