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Papers of the Week

Papers: 1 Jan 2022 - 7 Jan 2022

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2021 Winter

Ochsner J



Systematic Review of the Use of Intravenous Ketamine for Fibromyalgia.


Pastrak M, Abd-Elsayed A, Ma F, Vrooman B, Visnjevac O
Ochsner J. 2021 Winter; 21(4):387-394.
PMID: 34984054.


Fibromyalgia, a complex disorder that affects 1% to 5% of the population, presents as widespread chronic musculoskeletal pain without physical or laboratory signs of any specific pathologic process. The mechanism, while still being explored, suggests central sensitization and disordered pain regulation at the spinal cord and supraspinal levels, with a resulting imbalance between excitation and inhibition that may alter central nervous system nociceptive processing. Nociceptive hypersensitivity results from activity of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-mediated glutamatergic synaptic transmission in the spinal cord and brain. Because ketamine, an NMDAR antagonist, may reduce induction of synaptic plasticity and maintenance of chronic pain states, the study of its use in intravenous form to treat fibromyalgia has increased. We conducted a literature search with the objectives of examining the effect of intravenous ketamine administration on pain relief, identifying side effects, and highlighting the need for clinical studies to evaluate ketamine infusion treatment protocols for patients with fibromyalgia. We used the keywords "fibromyalgia," "chronic pain," "ketamine," "intravenous," and "infusion" and found 7 publications that included 118 patients with fibromyalgia who met inclusion criteria. Clinical studies revealed a short-term reduction-only for a few hours after the infusions-in self-reported pain intensity with single, low-dose, intravenous ketamine infusions, likely attributable to nociception-dependent central sensitization in fibromyalgia via NMDAR blockade. Case studies suggest that increases in the total dose of ketamine and longer, more frequent infusions may be associated with more effective pain relief and longer-lasting analgesia. Another neurotransmitter release may be contributing to this outcome. This systematic review suggests a dose response, indicating potential efficacy of intravenous ketamine in the treatment of fibromyalgia.