Ketamine is reported to have rapid antidepressant effects; however, there is limited understanding of the time-course of ketamine effects beyond a single infusion. A previous report including 10 participants with treatment-resistant major depression (TRD) found that six ketamine infusions resulted in a sustained antidepressant effect. In the current report, we examined the pattern and durability of antidepressant effects of repeated ketamine infusions in a larger sample, inclusive of the original.
Participants with TRD (n = 24) underwent a washout of antidepressant medication followed by a series of up to six IV infusions of ketamine (.5 mg/kg) administered open-label three times weekly over a 12-day period. Participants meeting response criteria were monitored for relapse for up to 83 days from the last infusion.
The overall response rate at study end was 70.8%. There was a large mean decrease in Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale score at 2 hours after the first ketamine infusion (18.9 ± 6.6, p < .001), and this decrease was largely sustained for the duration of the infusion period. Response at study end was strongly predicted by response at 4 hours (94% sensitive, 71% specific). Among responders, median time to relapse after the last ketamine infusion was 18 days.
Ketamine was associated with a rapid antidepressant effect in TRD that was predictive of a sustained effect. Future controlled studies will be required to identify strategies to maintain an antidepressant response among patients who benefit from a course of ketamine.