Low-dose ketamine affects immune responses in humans during the early postoperative period

B. Beilin, Y. Rusabrov, Y. Shapira, L. Roytblat, L. Greemberg, I. Z. Yardeni, H. Bessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Background. Anaesthesia and surgery are associated with impairment of the immune system expressed as an excessive proinflammatory immune response and suppression of cell-mediated immunity that may affect the course of the postoperative period. Addition of anaesthetic agents capable of attenuating the alterations in perioperative immune function may exert a favourable effect on patients' healing. We have assessed the effect of preoperative administration of a sub-anaesthetic dose of ketamine on the mitogen response and production of interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-2, IL-6, and tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), as well as natural killer cell cytotoxicity (NKCC) in patients undergoing abdominal surgery. Methods. Seventeen patients admitted for elective abdominal surgery were given ketamine 0.15 mg kg-1 i.v. 5 min before induction of general anaesthesia. Nineteen patients received a similar volume of isotonic saline 5 min before induction of the anaesthesia. PBMCs were isolated from venous blood before and 4, 24, 48, and 72 h after operation for IL-1β, IL-2, IL-6, and TNF-α secretion, and NKCC assessment. Results. Four hours after operation, the cells from patients in the ketamine group showed a significantly suppressed production of IL-6 (P < 0.01) compared with controls. The production of IL-2 did not change from that of the preoperation samples. TNF-α secretion was significantly elevated in the control group 4 h after operation (P < 0.05). Conclusions. Addition of small doses of ketamine before induction of anaesthesia resulted in attenuation of secretion of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNF-α, and in preservation of IL-2 production at its preoperative level. It is suggested that this anaesthetic may be of value in preventing immune function alterations in the early postoperative period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)522-527
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Anaesthesia
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2007


  • Anaesthetics
  • Immune response
  • Ketamine
  • Natural killer cells
  • i.v.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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