Adjunctive atropine is unnecessary during ketamine sedation in children

Lance Brown, Sarah Christian-Kopp, Thomas S. Sherwin, Aqeel Khan, Besh Barcega, T. Kent Denmark, James A. Moynihan, Grace J. Kim, Gail Stewart, Steven M. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Background: The prophylactic coadministration of atropine or other anticholinergics during dissociative sedation has historically been considered mandatory to mitigate ketamine-associated hypersalivation. Emergency physicians (EPs) are known to omit this adjunct, so a prospective study to describe the safety profile of this practice was initiated. Objectives: To quantify the magnitude of excessive salivation, describe interventions for hypersalivation, and describe any associated airway complications. Methods: In this prospective observational study of emergency department (ED) pediatric patients receiving dissociative sedation, treating physicians rated excessive salivation on a 100-mm visual analog scale and recorded the frequency and nature of airway complications and interventions for hypersalivation. Results: Of 1,090 ketamine sedations during the 3-year study period, 947 (86.9%) were performed without adjunctive atropine. Treating physicians assigned the majority (92%) of these subjects salivation visual analog scale ratings of 0 mm, i.e., "none," and only 1.3% of ratings were ‡ 50 mm. Transient airway complications occurred in 3.2%, with just one (brief desaturation) felt related to hypersalivation (incidence 0.11%, 95% confidence interval = 0.003% to 0.59%). Interventions for hypersalivation (most commonly suctioning) occurred in 4.2%, with no occurrences of assisted ventilation or intubation. Conclusions: When adjunctive atropine is omitted during ketamine sedation in children, excessive salivation is uncommon, and associated airway complications are rare. Anticholinergic prophylaxis is not routinely necessary in this setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-318
Number of pages5
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Child
  • Ketamine
  • Sedation


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