Chronic Opioid Therapy Modifies QST Changes After Ketamine Infusion in Chronic Pain Patients

Published:August 09, 2017DOI:


      • Opioid-utilizing subjects had decreased in changes in temporal summation after a ketamine infusion.
      • Similar changes were not observed in non-opioid utilizing subjects.
      • Other QST parameters were not different following ketamine infusion when compared to placebo.
      • Subtle changes in altered QST profiles may suggest evidence of opioid-induced hyperalgesia.


      The long-term effects of opioids on sensitization processes are believed to be mediated through the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor. Quantitative sensory testing (QST) changes observed after a ketamine infusion have been previously described but the effect that chronic opioids will have is not known. The results of this prospective randomized factorial trial compared the thermal QST changes observed after a .05 mg/kg ketamine infusion or a saline placebo in chronic pain subjects who were either opioid-naive or were chronically using opioids for chronic noncancer pain are presented. No baseline QST differences were noted between the 4 groups at baseline. Comparison of changes preinfusion with postinfusion QST measurements resulted in decreased average change in temporal summation response between opioid subjects who received a placebo compared with those who received a ketamine infusion (−5.22, SD = 9.96 vs 13.81, SD = 19.55; P = .004). Additionally, the average change in temporal summation was decreased among subjects who received a ketamine infusion and were not chronically using opioids compared with subjects who were using chronic opioids and received a placebo infusion (−1.91, SD = 13.25 vs 13.81, SD = 19.55; P = .007). The results indicate that low-dose ketamine infusions produce subtle changes in QST phenotypes that are modified by the chronic use of opioids. This illustrates the potential diagnostic and therapeutic value of ketamine in the setting of chronic opioid use.


      The presented data further our understanding of modulation of sensory perception in the setting of chronic opioid use and the role of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor. The use of low-dose ketamine infusions may be useful for the treatment as well as diagnosis of opioid-related neuropathic conditions.

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