Ketamine is currently being used as an anesthetic/antiepileptic drug in refractory status epilepticus. To validate its use, 2 clinical trials are recruiting patients. However, preclinical studies of its use in chemically induced status epilepticus in rodents have shown that it is remarkably neuroprotective, through N-methyl-d-aspartate–receptor blockade, even when given after the onset of status epilepticus. Human studies have shown that status epilepticus–induced brain damage can be caused by a glutamate analogue and that it occurs in the same brain regions as in the animal studies.
Researchers therefore propose that ketamine be started early in the course of human status epilepticus as a neuroprotectant and that it be continued until epileptic discharges are eliminated. Using it as an anesthetic/antiepileptic drug late in the course of refractory status epilepticus only ensures that it is given after widespread brain damage has occurred.