Ketamine Use in the Intubation of Critically Ill Children with Neurological Indications: A Multicenter Retrospective Analysis

The National Emergency Airway Registry for Children (NEAR4KIDS) Investigators, Pediatric Acute Lung Injury, Sepsis Investigators (PALISI) Network

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Background: Ketamine has traditionally been avoided for tracheal intubations (TIs) in patients with acute neurological conditions. We evaluate its current usage pattern in these patients and any associated adverse events. Methods: We conducted a retrospective observational cohort study of critically ill children undergoing TI for neurological indications in 53 international pediatric intensive care units and emergency departments. We screened all intubations from 2014 to 2020 entered into the multicenter National Emergency Airway Registry for Children (NEAR4KIDS) registry database. Patients were included if they were under the age of 18 years and underwent TI for a primary neurological indication. Usage patterns and reported periprocedural composite adverse outcomes (hypoxemia < 80%, hypotension/hypertension, cardiac arrest, and dysrhythmia) were noted. Results: Of 21,562 TIs, 2,073 (9.6%) were performed for a primary neurological indication, including 190 for traumatic brain injury/trauma. Patients received ketamine in 495 TIs (23.9%), which increased from 10% in 2014 to 41% in 2020 (p < 0.001). Ketamine use was associated with a coindication of respiratory failure, difficult airway history, and use of vagolytic agents, apneic oxygenation, and video laryngoscopy. Composite adverse outcomes were reported in 289 (13.9%) Tis and were more common in the ketamine group (17.0% vs. 13.0%, p = 0.026). After adjusting for location, patient age and codiagnoses, the presence of respiratory failure and shock, difficult airway history, provider demographics, intubating device, and the use of apneic oxygenation, vagolytic agents, and neuromuscular blockade, ketamine use was not significantly associated with increased composite adverse outcomes (adjusted odds ratio 1.34, 95% confidence interval CI 0.99–1.81, p = 0.057). This paucity of association remained even when only neurotrauma intubations were considered (10.6% vs. 7.7%, p = 0.528). Conclusions: This retrospective cohort study did not demonstrate an association between procedural ketamine use and increased risk of peri-intubation hypoxemia and hemodynamic instability in patients intubated for neurological indications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-214
Number of pages10
JournalNeurocritical Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology

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