Severe agitation among ventilated medical intensive care unit patients: frequency, characteristics and outcomes

Intensive Care Med. 2004 Jun;30(6):1066-72. doi: 10.1007/s00134-004-2193-9. Epub 2004 Feb 14.


Objective: To determine the frequency, characteristics and outcomes of severe agitation among ventilated medical intensive care unit (MICU) patients.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: Eighteen-bed MICU in 964-bed tertiary care center.

Patients: All ventilated patients, aged 18 years or older and admitted for more than 24 h between January 1, 2001 and May 8, 2001.

Interventions: None.

Measurements: Data were collected daily by concurrent chart abstractions. Variables included sociodemographic, clinical, laboratory, pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions, ventilator settings and adverse events. Severe agitation, the main outcome variable, was defined as two or more Motor Activity Assessment Scale (MAAS) scores above 4 in a 24-h period and sedative and/or narcotic doses above the established sedation and analgesia protocol or a combination of two or more sedatives.

Results: Twenty-three (16.1%) of 143 enrolled patients exhibited severe agitation. Agitated patients were younger (hazard ratio [HR] 1.32), more likely to be admitted from an outside hospital ICU (HR 2.48), had lower pH (HR 1.55) and PaO(2)/FIO(2) less than 200 mmHg (HR 2.59). Agitated patients had longer MICU stays (median 12 versus 5 days, p<0.0001) and more ventilator days (median 14 versus 6, p<0.0001). Agitated patients were more likely to self-extubate (26% versus 6%, p=0.002). Benzodiazepines, narcotics and neuromuscular blocking agents were administered more frequently and at higher doses, but haloperidol was not.

Conclusion: Severe agitation occurs commonly in critically ill patients and is associated with adverse events including longer ICU stays, duration of mechanical ventilation and self-extubation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Ohio / epidemiology
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychomotor Agitation / diagnosis
  • Psychomotor Agitation / epidemiology*
  • Psychomotor Agitation / prevention & control*
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Central Nervous System Depressants