Intravenous ketamine for subacute treatment of refractory chronic migraine: a case series

Clinton Lauritsen, Santiago Mazuera, Richard B. Lipton, Sait Ashina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: Refractory migraine is a challenging condition with great impact on health related quality of life. Intravenous (IV) ketamine has been previously used to treat various refractory pain conditions. We present a series of patients with refractory migraine treated with intravenous ketamine in the hospital setting. Methods: Based on retrospective chart review, we identified six patients with refractory migraine admitted from 2010 through 2014 for treatment with intravenous ketamine. Ketamine was administered using a standard protocol starting with a dose of 0.1 mg/kg/hr and increased by 0.1 mg/kg/hr every 3 to 4 h as tolerated until the target pain score of 3/10 was achieved and maintained for at least 8 h. Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) scores at time of hospital admission were obtained as well as average baseline VAS scores prior to ketamine infusion. A phone interview was conducted for follow-up of migraine response in the 3 to 6 months following ketamine infusion. Results: The study sample had a median age of 36.5 years (range 29–54) and 83% were women. Pre-treatment pain scores ranged from 9 to 10. All patients achieved a target pain level of 3 or less for 8 h; the average ketamine infusion rate at target was 0.34 mg/kg/hour (range 0.12–0.42 mg/kg/hr). One patient reported a transient out-of-body hallucination following an increase in the infusion rate, which resolved after decreasing the rate. There were no other significant side effects. Conclusion: IV ketamine was safely administered in the hospital setting to patients with refractory chronic migraine. Treatment was associated with short term improvement in pain severity in 6 of 6 patients with refractory chronic migraine. Prospective placebo-controlled trials are needed to assess short term and long-term efficacy of IV ketamine in refractory chronic migraine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106
JournalJournal of Headache and Pain
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Intravenous ketamine for subacute treatment of refractory chronic migraine: a case series'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this