Does it matter if I get ketamine therapy from an anesthesiologist or psychiatrist?
This is a question that is surrounded by some controversy, and deserves examination.
Ketamine is a medication. It has historically been used as an anesthetic. It is a popular medication in third world nations and in the war/ battlefield environments because of its large safety profile that does not require many of the complex and expensive monitoring techniques that modern western medicine utilizes (see safety section for more information).
There are many medications that are shared between medical specialties. For example, Depakote is a medicine used by neurologists as an anti-seizure medication, but is also used by psychiatrists to treat bipolar disorder. Another example of a shared medication would be botox. Botox is used by dermatologists to lessen wrinkles, neurologists to treat migraine headaches, and urologists to treat an overactive bladder. Each of the mentioned specialties are adept at utilizing the same medication and use it safely. That being said, not all specialties are adept at treating the same diagnosis. A patient would likely not want a heart doctor to treat their seizures any more than they would want a seizure doctor to perform their cardiac bypass surgery.
Anesthesiologist are trained in the art of sedation and many aspects of pain control. Their primary specialty training does not include the proper diagnosis, treatment, or management of depression or any other mental health issue. Anesthesiologists are extremely adept at ensuring safety for their patients during surgical procedures, both in and outside the hospital. Anesthesiologists sometimes also get additional training to work as pain specialists. Ketamine therapy delivered by an anesthesiologist is likely to feel similar to a medical procedure that you might undergo in a hospital, but in the outpatient setting.
Psychiatrists spend the entirety of their medical specialty training learning how to properly diagnose, treat, and manage the full range of mental health issues in adults such as depression and ptsd. Extra training is required for certification to treat children and adolescents. Patients dealing with treatment-resistant depression are some of the more complex and challenging patients that psychiatrists work to assist. Understanding the many nuances and the various medications involved with treating depression, both past and present, is an area where a psychiatrist would have more expertise and training than an anesthesiologist.
As a psychiatrist, I have spent nearly two decades solely dedicated to helping patients who suffer from depression and other mental health concerns. My education, training, and career have been aimed in this direction from the beginning. The field of psychiatry is always searching for new and innovative ways to treat depression. I am happy that ketamine therapy is an option that is becoming increasingly available to those struggling with depression and other mental health issues. One reason for the increased availability is due to it being offered by both psychiatrists and anesthesiologists. Both specialties are able to provide safe treatment with ketamine. Each type of provider will offer the same type of treatment but in a modified form based on their medical specialty, their training, and their personality. Properly educating yourself on the particular type of experience you desire from your physician and the type of experience you desire from treatment should ultimately guide your decision.
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