Boys rescued from Thai cave were sedated with ketamine

Medics who treated the 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued from a cave in...

Posted: Apr 5, 2019 3:58 AM
Updated: Apr 5, 2019 4:06 AM

Medics who treated the 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued from a cave in Thailand last year credit the drug ketamine with playing a key role in the daring and dangerous mission to extract them.

According to details of the rescue released in a medical journal Thursday, the boys were given unspecified doses of ketamine, also known as party drug Special K, by the rescue divers as they were taken out of Tham Luang cave.

Reports at the time had suggested that the children, who had been trapped for two weeks, were sedated during the operation, but officials gave few details.

"We had to use the means that could keep the children not to be panicky while we were carrying them out," Thai Navy SEAL commander Rear Adm. Arpakorn Yookongkaew told CNN shortly after the rescue. "Most importantly, they are alive and safe."

In a joint letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, three Thai medics and an Australian anesthetist who was involved in the rescue said the boys also wore full-face masks supplying oxygen and poorly fitting wetsuits.

They detailed the care the boys received in a field hospital immediately after they left the cave, giving a sense of the perilous nature of the rescue mission.

The first four boys were given sunglasses to protect their eyes because they had not been exposed to the sun for more than two weeks, and their heads and necks immobilized in case of spinal injury during the journey through the narrow channels in the cave. Finally, the patients were wrapped in blankets to ward off hypothermia.

The letter said the second boy to leave the cave had a body temperature of 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) when he came out and developed hypothermia on his way to the hospital. Hypothermia can cause damage to vital organs, including the heart and kidneys, and the nervous system.

The medics said ketamine was a good choice to give to the boys, given the risk of hypothermia, as ketamine impairs shivering and is associated with smaller drops in core body temperature.

Ketamine was first synthesized in 1962 and was used by US Army doctors on American soldiers fighting in Vietnam as a painkiller and sedative. However, its minor hallucinogenic side effects warned doctors off treating people, and it developed a reputation as a street drug known for producing a high similar to an out-of-body experience. It has also been used as a date rape drug.

Today, ketamine is used in pediatric emergency rooms, for example in the case of a fracture, because it's safer than other sedatives, said CNN's Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a pediatrician.

It is also used is as a veterinary anesthetic and a close cousin of the drug was recently approved as a treatment for depression. The drug is on the World Health Organization's Essential Medicine List for adults.

The soccer team entered the cave after going for a bike ride, only to be trapped by rising floodwaters on June 23. The boys and their coach were found alive more than a week later, deep in the cave network and hundreds of meters below the surface.

It was clear that any rescue mission would be fraught with risk. Divers involved in the rescue described the conditions as some of the most extreme they have ever faced.

The decision to rescue the boys was complicated by the death of former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan, who ran out of air while returning from an operation to deliver oxygen tanks to the cave.

Richard Harris, the Australian anesthesiologist, was one of only two cave-diving anesthesiologists in the world.

"I didn't think it would work at all," Harris told National Geographic. "I expected the first two kids to drown and then we'd have to do something different. I put their odds of survival at zero."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 195684

Reported Deaths: 2587
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah38714593
Washington25787233
Marion22229308
Clackamas17677214
Lane13128149
Jackson10953140
Deschutes918074
Umatilla823684
Linn501768
Klamath450664
Yamhill449676
Polk378853
Malheur353063
Josephine337071
Douglas329871
Benton312720
Jefferson222037
Coos208935
Columbia175929
Union145123
Lincoln138821
Wasco138128
Hood River119631
Crook113822
Morrow111116
Clatsop9948
Baker95914
Tillamook6523
Curry64610
Grant5236
Lake4557
Harney3488
Wallowa1855
Gilliam631
Sherman581
Wheeler321
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3768805

Reported Deaths: 62690
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles123741124115
Riverside2997934594
San Bernardino2971654724
San Diego2790983742
Orange2712515031
Santa Clara1190602096
Kern1092981376
Sacramento1049581691
Fresno1019571690
Alameda881481668
Ventura810331017
San Joaquin733101394
Contra Costa68976805
Stanislaus622491061
Tulare49830840
Monterey43662383
San Mateo42059570
San Francisco36795546
Santa Barbara34391459
Solano32974253
Merced31919461
Sonoma30067321
Imperial28504729
Kings23017246
Placer22688292
San Luis Obispo21308260
Madera16482242
Santa Cruz16264206
Marin14079227
Yolo13932211
Shasta12175226
Butte12095192
El Dorado10193113
Napa988782
Sutter9441113
Yuba628549
San Benito606863
Lassen570624
Tehama559063
Nevada475575
Tuolumne413967
Mendocino410849
Humboldt408042
Amador366647
Lake348543
Glenn240025
Siskiyou225525
Colusa223616
Calaveras213654
Inyo142838
Del Norte13988
Mono12844
Plumas7186
Modoc5014
Mariposa4507
Trinity4025
Sierra1120
Alpine880
Unassigned460
Medford
Partly Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 57°
Brookings
Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 51°
Crater Lake
Mostly Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 57°
Grants Pass
Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 57°
Klamath Falls
Partly Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 44°
Showers possible tonight
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events

Latest Video

Image

Monday, May 17th Evening Weather

Image

Monday, May 17 morning weather

Image

Sunday, May 16th Weather

Image

Saturday, May 15 evening weather

Image

Saturday, May 15 morning weather

Image

Friday, May 14th Evening Weather

Image

Friday, May 14 morning weather

Image

Day two of manslaughter trial in fatal Medford road rage case

Image

Special bond fuels Abramson and Armantrout's CCC title run

Image

Thursday, May 13th Evening Weather