Faculty Advisor

Dwayne Accardo, DNP, APRN, CRNA

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 7-15-2021


Analytical, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Techniques and Equipment | Anesthesia and Analgesia | Anesthesiology | Chemicals and Drugs | Health and Medical Administration | Investigative Techniques | Medical Education | Medical Specialties | Medicine and Health Sciences | Nursing | Perioperative, Operating Room and Surgical Nursing | Pharmaceutical Preparations | Surgery | Surgical Procedures, Operative | Therapeutics


Background Opioid analgesia has become the mainstay for acute pain management in the postoperative setting. However, the use of opioid medications comes with significant risks and side effects. Due to increasing numbers of prescriptions to those with chronic pain, opioid medications have become more expensive while becoming less effective due to the buildup of patient tolerance. The idea of opioid-free analgesic techniques has rarely been breached in many hospitals. Emerging research has shown that opioid-sparing approaches have resulted in lower reported pain scores across the board, as well as significant cost reductions to hospitals and insurance agencies. In addition to providing adequate pain relief, the predicted cost burden of an opioid-free or opioid-sparing approach is significantly less than traditional methods.

Methods The following groups were considered in our inclusion criteria: those who speak the English language, all races and ethnicities, male or female, home medications, those who are at least 18 years of age and able to provide written informed consent, those undergoing inpatient or same-day surgical procedures. In addition, our scoping review includes the following exclusion criteria: those who are non-English speaking, those who are less than 18 years of age, those who are not undergoing surgical procedures while admitted, those who are unable to provide numeric pain score due to clinical status, those who are unable to provide written informed consent, and those who decline participation in the study. Data was extracted by one reviewer and verified by the remaining two group members. Extraction was divided as equally as possible among the 11 listed references. Discrepancies in data extraction were discussed between the article reviewer, project editor, and group leader.

Results We identified nine primary sources addressing the use of ketamine as an alternative to opioid analgesia and post-operative pain control. Our findings indicate a positive correlation between perioperative ketamine administration and postoperative pain control. While this information provides insight on opioid-free analgesia, it also revealed the limited amount of research conducted in this area of practice. The strategies for several of the clinical trials limited ketamine administration to a small niche of patients. The included studies provided evidence for lower pain scores, reductions in opioid consumption, and better patient outcomes.

Implications for Nursing Practice Based on the results of the studies’ randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses, the effects of ketamine are shown as an adequate analgesic alternative to opioids postoperatively. The cited resources showed that ketamine can be used as a sole agent, or combined effectively with reduced doses of opioids for multimodal therapy. There were noted limitations in some of the research articles. Not all of the cited studies were able to include definitive evidence of proper blinding techniques or randomization methods. Small sample sizes and the inclusion of specific patient populations identified within several of the studies can skew data in one direction or another; therefore, significant clinical results cannot be generalized to patient populations across the board.