What Is Ketamine Infusion Therapy?

ketamine infusion therapy

Administered via IV, it is considered a safe and rapid way to treat various mood disorders

This article is reprinted with permission from the University of Michigan’s Addiction Center, a partner of TreatmentMagazine.com in working to improve addiction and mental health outcomes.

Ketamine is an anesthetic agent with powerful antidepressant properties. It was developed in the 1960s by University of Michigan physicians as a safer option to provide comfortable sedation for procedures. Over the last several decades, studies have shown the potential for ketamine as a therapeutic option for treatment-resistant depression. Ketamine is a safe option to provide relief from severe and persistent symptoms of depression and suicidal thinking.

How Is Ketamine Infusion Therapy Different from Other Medications?

Ketamine infusions can provide rapid relief for symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts. Traditionally, medications could take weeks before patients begin to experience relief of symptoms. With ketamine infusions, patients often experience relief of symptoms within hours of the infusion.

What Are the Side Effects of Ketamine Infusions?

Ketamine infusion therapy can provide rapid relief.

Most patients tolerate ketamine infusions very well and report feeling sleepy and relaxed during infusions. Some may experience a higher blood pressure than what is normal for them during the infusion; however, this typically resolves on its own once the infusion is complete. Some patients may experience nausea during the infusion, which can be treated with medications. Visual changes may occur, such as double vision, illusion like experiences or mild hallucinations. Some patients may experience discomfort with these vision changes.

How Is the Ketamine Administered?

Ketamine is delivered through an IV. Ketamine infusion therapy is administered by a team of medical professionals specially trained in the delivery of ketamine. Typically, a patient needs approximately three hours to participate in an infusion. A nurse monitors your vital signs and provides support throughout the procedure.

What Can I Expect from Ketamine Infusion Therapy?

Prior to the infusion, you will need a referral from your healthcare provider. If ketamine is recommended by the specialist, scheduling for infusions will then be determined.

On the day of infusions, you should not eat or drink before the procedure. You may take your medications as directed by our psychiatrists. You will be assisted by one of our skilled nurses to a comfortable position within our procedural unit, and an IV will be started. Your ketamine dosage will be determined by the treating psychiatrist. You may feel drowsy during the infusion. The nurse will monitor you during the infusion, and will provide additional support as needed.

Once the infusion is complete, the nurse will monitor you for an additional hour, after which you will be discharged into the care of a responsible adult. At that time, you may resume your normal diet and medication regimen. You will be advised not to drink alcohol, drive or make any legal decisions for 24 hours after the infusion.

How Many Infusions Will I Need?

Patients receive three infusions to determine if ketamine is an effective treatment option. After the initial three infusions have been completed, additional infusions may be scheduled. Most patients will receive between three and six infusions. Patients will then be reassessed by a psychiatrist to determine if they will have additional ketamine infusions in a “maintenance phase” or if other treatment options should be considered.

Top photo: Hiroshi Tsubono; bottom photo: Elizeu Dias