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At KetaMIND Clinics, we administer a drug developed as an anaesthetic in the 1960’s and which is one of the most widely used and safest anaesthetic agents in the world. About 12-years ago it was discovered that this drug, administered by infusion at much lower doses, could reverse major depression and suicidality and that a series of infusions actually repaired damaged nerve fibres and synapses (nerve junctions) in the brain. Most traditional antidepressants target the receptors in the brain mediated by the neurotransmitters serotonin and nor-adrenaline and take weeks to work, if at all. Our infusions target another, much more prevalent receptor (NMDA) causing an increase in the neurotransmitter glutamate that has an almost immediate effect in most cases. 70% of patients with treatment resistant depression experience reduction in suicidal thoughts after only one infusion.

Our infusions can also disrupt the feedback loop of chronic pain in the brain and offers remission to responsive patients with refractory neuropathic pain.

When used as an anaesthetic, the dose administered is about four-times as high as that used for our treatments and is given over only a few minutes. Because patients still retain the ability to protect their own airway, breathe normally and usually experience no significant cardiovascular effects, our infusions are considered extremely safe compared with several other anaesthetic agents. The dose you will receive at KCSA is far less and given as a controlled infusion over 40-minutes for depression and 4-hours for chronic pain conditions.

Even though these infusions have such a good safety profile, we exercise every caution at KCSA and your infusion will be given by doctors and nurses with appropriate training and with immediate access to emergency drugs and equipment.

During the infusion your pulse rate, heart tracing, oxygen level, breathing and blood pressure will be monitored using state-of-the-art equipment.

Before your first infusion a medical history will be taken and your weight will be recorded. A standard pre-anaesthetic assessment will be conducted by the doctor.

A small cannula will be placed in a vein on the back of your hand or forearm by a nurse or doctor and your infusion will always be started by a doctor. The weight-based preparation of the infusion will be checked by both a doctor and a nurse. We require our doctors to have experience administering anaesthetic agents, and training in life support and airway management. Our nurses are required to have experience in Intensive Care Units or Emergency Departments and are therefore familiar with the monitors used to check on you throughout the infusion. A doctor will be immediately available throughout your infusion.

You will be in a quiet, private infusion cubicle on a comfortable reclining chair. The nurse’s station is immediately adjacent and the monitors are clearly visible and audible at all times.

Everybody’s experience is unique. The majority of patients have a peaceful, uplifting even exciting experience during each infusion. Most experience feelings of empathy and empowerment. Usually there is a floating, rotating feeling with wonderful varied colours and images. Very few patients might have an unpleasant, even frightening experience. This is usually limited to the first infusion and by no means suggests that the infusions won’t work. Usually subsequent infusions are completely different. A few patients feel nauseous but we have medication on hand to address this.

We recommend you listen to peaceful music through our noise-cancelling headphones. Choice of music is up to you but generally classical or some other gentle background music is best. Make up a playlist on your own phone and we will connect this to our headphones. Remember to make the playlist long enough to last the whole infusion. Almost all of our patients find that music plays an important role during their infusion experience.

You can find some of KCSA’s recommended music choices under Patient Resources here.

Download Music Policy Here

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If you are having a series of infusions to treat your depression, you may already start feeling better soon after your first infusion but in a few cases it takes 3 or 4 infusions to notice a significant difference. You will be asked to fill in a self-assessment form the day after each infusion so that we can monitor your progress. If your infusions simply aren’t working for you, which rarely happens, we may decide to stop after the 4th infusion.

We will provide a wheelchair to take you to your vehicle after you have recovered from your infusion. You will be tired and should go home and rest after your infusion and may not drive, operate machinery, swim or sign important legal documents until the next day. It is required that a responsible adult be with you for a few hours after your infusion.

It is crucial that you understand the preparation for your infusion. You may be asked to stop or cut down on certain medication before your infusion, as certain drugs counter the effect of the treatment and may make the infusions less effective. You should not eat solid food for at least 3-hours before your infusion and shouldn’t take liquids the hour before. Try and empty your bladder, particularly if you are having a 4-hour chronic pain infusion.

Remember that like any of the traditional antidepressant and mood-stabilising drugs, our infusions are not a cure for depression or chronic pain conditions but it is, usually, an extremely effective treatment. You may even be able to cut down on your other medication after receiving infusions, but only if advised to do so by your doctor. Most of our patients will benefit from ‘top-up’ infusions – seldom more frequently than monthly and often only once every 6-months or a year.

Absolutely. Do not stop any of your medication unless instructed to do so and keep your appointments with your psychiatrist, psychologist or GP. After our infusions, cognitive behavioural therapy is generally more effective and should be continued.

The agent used in the infusions we administer at KCSA is recognized by SAHPRA in South Africa as a dissociative anaesthetic agent, and for this purpose is also on the WHO list of worldwide essential medications. Using it by infusion to treat mood disorders and chronic neuropathic pain is referred to as ‘off-label’. This happens often with many other drugs when benefits are discovered that deviate from the original indication on registration. It by no means suggests that using the drug for another indication is prohibited or dangerous provided due care is taken and full disclosure of the ‘off-label’ use of the drug is made to patients. SAHPRA does however not permit the promotion of off-label drugs by name in the public domain, which is why we do not mention this drug specifically.

If you would like to learn more about the drug we use by infusion at KetaMIND Clinics, other possible routes of administration, or have any questions, please contact one of our clinics directly and speak to our anaesthetists directly – or your own doctor is welcome to contact us for this information.

You may be surprised to learn how affordable the infusions are, particularly considering the benefit that usually follows. The drug administered is inexpensive but you are paying KCSA for the facility, experienced medical staff and use of monitoring equipment. Medical Aid Schemes are finally coming on board, having realized the value of these infusions for their members. While they seldom pay 100% of the cost, some funders are covering almost 90%.  Please see our Patient Payment Policy 2022 for costs and other information about payment. We also offer an interest-free payment option over 3-months at most of our clinics through MediConnect.

We prefer patients to seek a referral from their psychiatrist, psychologist or GP. If your treating doctor is not aware of KCSA, one of our doctors would be happy to speak to them and provide information.

If you do not have a treating psychiatrist or doctor, we can offer you a ‘virtual consultation’ on a digital platform with a psychiatrist on our National Care Team, who will decide whether our infusions will likely be of benefit for your condition.