COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Atypical antipsychotics in the management of delirium: a review of the empirical literature

Soenke Boettger, William Breitbart
Palliative & Supportive Care 2005, 3 (3): 227-37
16594462

OBJECTIVES: To review the existing literature of atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of delirium and make recommendations regarding their use in the treatment of delirium.

METHODS: I conducted a literature search in Pubmed, Psychlit, and Embase for studies using atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of delirium. In the absence of studies, case reports were used.

RESULTS: Overall 13 studies examined the use of risperidone, olanzapine, and quetiapine, two cases were reported about ziprasidone, and no publication was found using aripiprazole in the treatment of delirium. Among the existing studies were retrospective and prospective, open label studies in addition to one with a double blind design using risperidone. Risperidone, olanzapine, and quetiapine may be all similarly effective in the treatment of delirium, whereas there may be limited efficacy in the use of olanzapine in the hypoactive subtype of delirium in elderly populations, which may generalize to the other atypical antipsychotics. The use of atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of delirium is safe and carries a low burden of side effects.

SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: Although atypical antipsychotics are widely used in the treatment of delirium, well-designed studies do not exist. Among the existing studies, stronger data supports the use of risperidone and olanzapine, and also quetiapine may be considered in the treatment of delirium. Recommendations are made based on the existing data and literature. The need for well-designed studies to validate the use of atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of delirium continues.

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