Antipsychotics in the treatment of delirium: a systematic review

Dallas P Seitz, Sudeep S Gill, Louis T van Zyl
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2007, 68 (1): 11-21

OBJECTIVE: Antipsychotics are frequently used in the management of delirium, although there is limited information regarding the safety and efficacy of antipsychotics in treating delirium. The purpose of this study was to systematically evaluate the evidence for the efficacy and safety of antipsychotics in treating delirium.

SOURCES: MEDLINE (July 1980 to July 2005) and Cochrane databases were searched for English language articles using keywords.

STUDY SELECTION: Prospective studies with standardized criteria for diagnosing delirium and evaluating its severity.

DATA SYNTHESIS: In total, 14 studies (9 single agent studies and 5 comparison trials) met inclusion criteria. Study medications included haloperidol, chlorpromazine, olanzapine, risperidone, and quetiapine. Improvements in delirium severity were reported with all of these antipsychotic medications. No study included a placebo comparison to account for spontaneous improvements in delirium. Other methodological limitations included inadequate blinding, randomization, and handling of participant withdrawals. The improvements in delirium tended to occur soon after initiation of treatment, and most of the studies examined used relatively low doses of antipsychotic medication. Serious adverse events attributable to antipsychotic medication were uncommon in studies, although side effects were not evaluated systematically in most studies.

CONCLUSION: To date, there are no published double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials to establish the efficacy or safety of any antipsychotic medication in the management of delirium. There is limited evidence from uncontrolled studies that supports the use of low-dose, short-term treatment of delirium with some antipsychotics. Further study with well-designed clinical trials is required in this area.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"