Reviewing the physiology, pharmacology and therapeutic uses of ketamine
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Reviewing the physiology, pharmacology and therapeutic uses of ketamine

Jane Alison Hunt Senior lecturer (retired), children’s and young people’s nursing, Bournemouth University, and registered nurse, NHS Professionals, COVID-19 National Vaccination Programme, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, England
Maisie Alice Lake First-year student, paramedic science, Oxford Brookes University, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To understand the physiological properties of ketamine

  • To learn about the therapeutic uses of ketamine

  • To familiarise yourself with the nursing implications of ketamine use

Ketamine is a synthetic drug with unique properties which started to be used therapeutically in humans in the 1970s and is now widely used in all fields of nursing. Ketamine acts on the central nervous system, primarily through inhibiting N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors. However, the precise understanding of its mechanisms of action remains elusive in many respects. Ketamine is frequently used as an anaesthetic in medical and surgical procedures and as an analgesic in children and adults. It is increasingly used in mental health settings to treat depression. It has potential to be used more often in areas such as palliative care and mental health care. This article reviews the physiological and pharmacological properties of ketamine, explores its main therapeutic uses, and considers the associated implications for nursing practice.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2021.e11737

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software


Hunt JA, Lake MA (2021) Reviewing the physiology, pharmacology and therapeutic uses of ketamine. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2021.e11737

Published online: 23 August 2021

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