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advanced practice nurse, ketamine, sickle cell disease, vaso-occlusive crisis



  1. Applequist, Hilary DNP, NP-C
  2. Daly, Barbara J. PhD, RN
  3. Koniaris, Christine MD
  4. Musil, Carol M. PhD, RN, FAAN, FGSA


The purpose of this study was to investigate the use of ketamine to treat vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC) pain in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD). A descriptive, quantitative study was conducted to collect baseline data about the use of ketamine in SCD VOC across the United States using a brief, researcher-developed, Internet survey sent to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). A total of 128 surveys from APRNs were analyzed. Thirteen of those respondents reported use of ketamine in SCD VOC. The most common reason ketamine was not used by the others was lack of awareness of this treatment modality. Of those using ketamine, most reported that patients rated pain lower sometimes or almost always after ketamine administration. A strong need for education and more rigorous studies are suggested by these data. Providers indicated that many had never heard of ketamine being used in this population and that strong empirical evidence is lacking to guide its use. Failure of other pain management modalities was reported as a very important consideration by most of those who use or recommend the use of ketamine in SCD VOC. This promising treatment has the potential to benefit many of the thousands of patients who experience VOC. As the primary providers of care to many of these patients, APRNs should be actively involved in investigation and protocol development.