Dissociative anesthesia is a unique method of pain control. It reduces anxiety and produces a trancelike state. The person is not asleep, but rather feels separated from his or her body.
Dissociative anesthesia is especially useful in emergency situations, such as an injury, because the person will not have been kept from food and drink, as a person usually is before standard general anesthesia, and therefore needs a method with less risk of vomiting and inhaling stomach contents.
Dissociative anesthesia can also be used for short procedures that are painful, such as changing bandages. This method is safe and lasts only a short time. Because a person does not usually recall the procedure, this method is useful in children.
The medications used for dissociative anesthesia are given through a shot into a muscle or through an intravenous line, or IV. An IV is a thin tube that is usually placed into one of the veins of the forearm or hand. The medication quickly takes effect. The primary medication used is called ketamine (i.e., Ketalar).
A sedative is often given before ketamine to reduce anxiety. A single dose of ketamine produces a trancelike state for about 10 to 30 minutes and pain control for about 30 to 45 minutes. A pinprick is often used to make sure the person is not feeling pain. The procedure is then performed.
Additional doses of medication can be given if the procedure takes longer than expected. The individual's eyes stay open during the procedure, but he or she is in a daze and feels no pain.
The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 1995, Goodman et al.
Anesthesia, 1990, Miller et al.