Effectiveness and Safety of Ketamine for Unipolar Depression: a Systematic Review

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The Psychiatric quarterly


Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a common psychiatric disorder with major implications for healthcare system and socioeconomic burden. For chronic and treatment-resistant depression, Ketamine has emerged as a possible treatment option. This systematic review explores the evidence for the effectiveness and tolerability of Ketamine in patients with MDD. This systematic review was conducted following the guidelines of Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) checklist. Eight electronic databases were searched by using search terms: (ketamine) AND (trial OR RCT OR clinical-trial) AND (depressive OR depression OR "depressive-disorder"). After a rigorous screening process against the predetermined eligibility criteria, 35 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were included. Quality assessment of included studies was done by using the Cochrane risk-of-bias tool for RCTs. Thirty-five RCTs are included in this review article with majority of studies from United States, Iran, and China. Intravenous (IV) Ketamine was effective in 70% (21/30) of the included studies whereas oral and Intranasal (IN) Ketamine were effective in two and three studies, respectively. The majority of studies (6/8) using Ketamine as anesthetic agent during electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) failed to show an improvement compared to the participants receiving ECT and placebo. The most common reported side effects were nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diplopia, drowsiness, dysphoria, hallucinations, and confusion. Ketamine is an effective treatment option for patients with MDD with undesirable effects when administered via oral, IV and IN routes. Ketamine agumentation of ECT requires further exploration in well-designed studies with adequate sample size. The short-lived antidepressant effect of Ketamine is a potential limitation, therefore, further studies administering multiple infusions for acute treatment and maintenance are necessary.

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ePub ahead of print