Ketamine produces significant rapid-onset and robust antidepressant effects in patients with major depressive disorder. However, this drug also has transient cardiovascular stimulatory effects, and there are limited data about potential predictors of these cardiovascular effects.
A total of 135 patients with unipolar and bipolar depression received a total of 741 ketamine infusions (0.5 mg/kg over 40 min). Blood pressure and pulse were monitored every 10 min during the infusions and 30 min after the infusions. Depressive, psychotomimetic and dissociative symptom severity was assessed at baseline and 4 hours after each infusion.
The maximum blood pressure and pulse values were observed at 30-40 min during infusions. The largest mean systolic/diastolic blood pressure increases were 7.4/6.0 mmHg, and the largest mean pulse increase was 1.9 beats per min. No significant change in blood pressure and pulse was found in the second to sixth infusions compared with the first infusion. Patients who were older (age⩾50 years), hypertensive and receiving infusions while exhibiting dissociative symptoms showed greater maximal changes in systolic and diastolic blood pressure than patients who were younger (age<50 years), normotensive and without dissociative symptoms (all < 0.05). Hypertensive patients had less elevation of pulse than normotensive patients ( < 0.05). Ketamine dosage was positively correlated with changes in systolic and diastolic blood pressure (all < 0.05).
Blood pressure and pulse elevations following subanaesthetic ketamine infusions are transient and do not cause serious cardiovascular events. Older age, hypertension, large ketamine dosage and dissociative symptoms may predict increased ketamine-induced cardiovascular effects.