Ketamine Shown to be a More Effective Sedative Than Haloperidol

Extremely agitated patients were sedated 12 minutes faster treated with ketamine.

Researchers in a new study found that ketamine is more effective than haloperidol in treating highly-agitated patients before being hospitalized.

According to the study, published in Clinical Toxicology, the patients treated with ketamine were sedated in 5 minutes, which was 12 minutes quicker than the average sedation time with haloperidol. However, patients treated with ketamine had an increased rate of complications and a greater need for intubation.

Paramedics sometimes find that patients can become confused, agitated, or combative before being hospitalized and often can put both the patient and paramedic at risk. Therefore, the patient is sedated to ensure safety.

The paramedics were trained to evaluate a patient’s mental status on the Altered Medical Status Scale. This scale ranges from +4 (very violent) through 0 (normal) to -4 (unresponsive).

Patients judged to be agitated received 5-mg/kg of ketamine or 10-mg of haloperidol. The time it took to return to a state of +1 was recorded. During 2 time periods of 6 months, researchers evaluated 64 patients treated with ketamine and 82 patients treated with haloperidol.

They found that ketamine was more effective at sedating patients, but 49% of patients experienced complications. Only 5% of patients treated with haloperidol experienced complications, the researchers found.

Approximately 39% of patients who received treatment with ketamine needed intubation, compared with only 4% of patients treated with haloperidol. The researchers concluded that these findings warrant more studies of the drugs used prior to hospitalization.