Background: Neuropathic pain is often severe and resistant to pharmacological treatment. The aims of the present study were to assess the analgesic effect of ketamine and lidocaine and to investigate if measurement of different variables of sensibility could be used to identify responders. We also wanted to study if treatment resulted in changes of sensibility.
Methods: Twelve patients with long-lasting peripheral neuropathic pain of traumatic origin were included. The effects of ketamine hydrochloride (Ketalar®, Parke Davis) 0.4 mg/kg and lidocaine hydrochloride (Xylocain®, Astra) 2.5 mg/kg were investigated. Saline was used as placebo. The intensity of continuous pain was measured by a visual analogue scale (VAS). Warm and cold perception as well as heat and cold pain thresholds were assessed. Sensibility to touch was also tested. Systemic plasma concentrations of lidocaine and ketamine were assessed.
Results: The mean reduction in VAS-scores was 55%, 34% and 22% for ketamine, lidocaine and placebo, respectively. A significant difference was registered between ketamine and placebo (P = 0.009). Response to treatment (50% reduction in VAS-score during infusion) was recorded in 7/12 in the ketamine, 4/12 in the lidocaine and 2/12 in the placebo group. Quantitative sensory testing (QST) of thermal sensitivity and sensory tests for mechanical stimuli could not separate responders from non-responders and neither were the results from these assessments changed by the infusion of the drugs. Lidocaine and particularly ketamine were associated with frequent side-effects, the most common being somnolence and dizziness.
Conclusion: Ketamine showed a significant analgesic effect. The clinical usefulness is, however, limited by disturbing side-effects.