Ketamine & Catecholamine-dependent Heart Failure: Be Careful

The Ketamine kick continues! I am not going to pretend I knew everything about everything as I’ve created this page over the last several months. People who walk around saying things like they were born with that knowledge sometimes need to be checked. We all had that one eye-opening day where it was like, “(explicative) I should have known that!” We need to be careful when we provide ketamine to patients with heart failure.

I had some basic knowledge on ketamine but fortunately I have expanded that substantially over the course of working on my lectures. The whole “negative ionotrope” concept was something I was familiar with, but I never actually looked up in depth until colleagues such as the great Seiha Kim, David Convissar, and other great anesthesia colleagues who have more experience on the matter than I do. Not to mention that Seiha is both a pharmacist and an anesthesiologist.

A healthy heart should not have any issues with ketamine for sedation nor rapid sequence intubation, but, as mentioned in the Christ article linked, you can find a 21% decrease in cardiac index. This also brings me to the point where many clinicians focus on the blood pressure while ignoring the patients cardiac index/cardiac output. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside to see the MAP > 65 as we keep on increasing our pressors but at the same time we have NO IDEA what this afterload increase is doing to the LV. We feel self-reassured but really our patients are going on a downward spiral. That’s a discussion for another day. We really need more than a BP cuff or an a-line to get a true grasp of what’s going on with our critically ill patient who is otherwise hemodynamically unstable.


Christ G, Mundigler G, Merhaut C, Zehetgruber M, Kratochwill C, Heinz G, Siostrzonek P. Adverse cardiovascular effects of ketamine infusion in patients with catecholamine-dependent heart failure. Anaesth Intensive Care. 1997 Jun;25(3):255-9. doi: 10.1177/0310057X9702500308. PMID: 9209606.
Link to Article

Bovill JG. Intravenous anesthesia for the patient with left ventricular dysfunction. Semin Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 2006 Mar;10(1):43-8. doi: 10.1177/108925320601000108. PMID: 16703233.
Link to Article

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