Intubation of Profoundly Agitated Patients Treated with Prehospital Ketamine

Travis D. Olives, Paul C. Nystrom, Jon B. Cole, Kenneth W. Dodd, Jeffrey D. Ho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Background Profound agitation in the prehospital setting confers substantial risk to patients and providers. Optimal chemical sedation in this setting remains unclear. Objective The goal of this study was to describe intubation rates among profoundly agitated patients treated with prehospital ketamine and to characterize clinically significant outcomes of a prehospital ketamine protocol. Methods This was a retrospective cohort study of all patients who received prehospital ketamine, per a predefined protocol, for control of profound agitation and who subsequently were transported to an urban Level 1 trauma center from May 1, 2010 through August 31, 2013. Identified records were reviewed for basic ambulance run information, subject characteristics, ketamine dosing, and rate of intubation. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) ambulance run data were matched to hospital-based electronic medical records. Clinically significant outcomes are characterized, including unadjusted and adjusted rates of intubation. Results Overall, ketamine was administered 227 times in the prehospital setting with 135 cases meeting study criteria of use of ketamine for treatment of agitation. Endotracheal intubation was undertaken for 63% (85/135) of patients, including attempted prehospital intubation in four cases. Male gender and late night arrival were associated with intubation in univariate analyses (χ2=12.02; P=.001 and χ2=5.34; P=.021, respectively). Neither ketamine dose, co-administration of additional sedating medications, nor evidence of ethanol (ETOH) or sympathomimetic ingestion was associated with intubation. The association between intubation and both male gender and late night emergency department (ED) arrival persisted in multivariate analysis. Neither higher dose (>5mg/kg) ketamine nor co-administration of midazolam or haloperidol was associated with intubation in logistic regression modeling of the 120 subjects with weights recorded. Two deaths were observed. Post-hoc analysis of intubation rates suggested a high degree of provider-dependent variability. Conclusions Prehospital ketamine is associated with a high rate of endotracheal intubation in profoundly agitated patients; however, ketamine dosing is not associated with intubation rate when adjusted for potential confounders. It is likely that factors not included in this analysis, including both provider comfort with post-ketamine patients and anticipated clinical course, play a role in the decision to intubate patients who receive prehospital ketamine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)593-602
Number of pages10
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • agitation
  • excited delirium
  • intubation
  • prehospital ketamine
  • sedation


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