What is Ketamine Infusion Therapy?
Ketamine infusions are a relatively new use for an old medication. Ketamine was originally approved for use in patients as a sedative and anesthetic agent during surgery and other invasive procedures. Ketamine has also been used quite successfully as a pain management agent such as the chronic pain associated with neurological pain disorders.
In recent years, doctors and medical researchers have studied intravenous (IV) ketamine infusions as a viable therapy option for treatment-resistant depression and other behavioral health conditions. Ketamine used this way is administered in much lower doses and for a shorter duration than is typically required for anesthesia purposes.
Ketamine can also be used as an alternative to prescription SSRI antidepressants for treating the 30 to 50 percent of patients that don’t respond to these other methods. Ketamine works via a different mechanism (using glutamate) thereby circumventing the traditional neural pathways used by traditional medications. Ketamine can work almost instantaneously, unlike the other drugs which can take 6 to 8 weeks to become effectiv
Who Can Benefit From Ketamine Infusions?
For anyone with pain not alleviated by other treatment methods, or treatment-resistant depression, these ketamine infusions are providing much-needed relief. While a very small percentage of the population won’t respond to this type of treatment, certain medical facilities, such as Pacific Ketamine Institute (PKI), are showing up to an 85 percent success rate using ketamine to treat depression.
When asked about the efficacy of ketamine infusion treatment Dr. Michael Steuer, Medical Director at Pacific Ketamine Institute says, “Unlike traditional antidepressant drugs used for depression which often take 6 or more weeks to work, ketamine does not change hormone balances in the brain as other antidepressants do, and as a result, the effects of ketamine infusion therapy is immediate.”
That’s great news for anyone dealing with the often debilitating symptoms of chronic pain, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder or other mood disorders not responding well to other treatment modalities. Ketamine is proving safe, effective and fast-acting to help relieve the effects of pain disorders in a patient with acute and chronic pain.
As with any treatment method, your doctor will do a complete health history to make sure you are a candidate for the infusions. This type of drug therapy is contraindicated in most patients with high blood pressure, seizure disorders, a previous head injury, or an elevated heart rate.
How Are the Infusions Administered?
A ketamine infusion is delivered in the patient’s arm as an IV infusion, or IV drip, which takes about 40 minutes to an hour to administer. You should start to feel its effects almost immediately or within a few hours and continue to feel the effects for up to two weeks or longer.
A clinical nurse or doctor will monitor your vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and oxygen levels) during your session. Once the ketamine treatment session is over, you can go home typically within 20 to 30 minutes. While you could, in theory, drive yourself to your infusion session, most clinics and healthcare providers will require that you have someone available to drive you home to continue to monitor the effects of the treatment for a short period.
Additionally, while the infusion method of delivery is an off-label use of the drug, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved a nasal spray containing esketamine. Sold under the brand name SPRAVATO™ it’s being prescribed to patients in conjunction with an oral antidepressant for treatment-resistant depression.
Where Can I Get Ketamine Infusion Therapy?
Ketamine infusions are usually part of a patient’s comprehensive treatment plan to help manage the symptoms of pain and depression. Your doctor will usually schedule a series of about six sessions, administered over the course of two to three weeks. This is to ensure you receive the maximum benefits as the “one and done” approach is rarely beneficial.
Ketamine infusions are not currently approved by the FDA so most health plans won’t cover this type of treatment. However; ask your healthcare provider or the medical staff at your ketamine clinic if they can work with you to determine if a portion of the treatment (medical exams, blood work, etc.) can be billed out to your insurance company.
Also, if you have either a healthcare spending account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) you can use those pre-tax savings to help cover the cost of your pain relief ketamine infusion treatment.
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