Editor’s Note: Ginevra Liptan, MD is both a fibromyalgia patient and physician specialist.
A recent CBS news segment featured a doctor in Florida talking about his success treating fibromyalgia with intravenous (IV) ketamine, a medication usually used for surgical anesthesia. One of his patients described that her fibromyalgia pain was “virtually eliminated” by this treatment.
I wasn’t surprised to hear this. A few years back, several of my fibromyalgia patients reported mysterious pain reduction that lasted for several weeks after they underwent seemingly unrelated surgeries. In each case, I found the only consistent feature was not the type of surgery they had, but that that they had all received IV ketamine as part of their anesthesia during surgery.
The fascinating—and exciting part—is that although IV ketamine is used in anesthesia to block pain signals only temporarily, for some fibromyalgia patients it seemed to trigger a more long-lasting “cool down” of the pain signals, allowing for a period of sustained pain relief without any further medication. We don’t understand exactly how ketamine might trigger sustained pain relief. We do know that ketamine’s primary action is to block certain receptors (NMDA) that act to transmit pain signals.