Delirium recognition and sedation practices in critically ill patients: a survey on the attitudes of 1015 Brazilian critical care physicians

J Crit Care. 2009 Dec;24(4):556-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2009.04.004. Epub 2009 Jul 3.


Purpose: The aim of the study was to characterize the practices of Brazilian ICU physicians toward sedation and delirium.

Materials and methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted among a convenience sample of critical care physicians between April and June 2008.

Results: One thousand fifteen critical care physicians responded. Sedation scoring systems were used by 893 (88.3%) of the respondents. The Ramsay and Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale were used by 81.9% and 6.8% of the respondents, respectively. Most respondents did not discuss sedation targets (62.8%) or practice daily sedative interruption (68.3%) in most patients. More than half of the respondents (52.7%) used a sedation protocol, and the most used sedatives were midazolam (97.8%), fentanyl (91.5%), and propofol (55%). A significant rate of the respondents (42.7%) estimated that more than 25% of patients under mechanical ventilation have delirium, but 53.5% occasionally assessed patients for delirium. Thirteen percent used specific delirium scales, with the Confusion Assessment Method for intensive care unit (ICU) being the most applied. Delirium was often treated with haloperidol (88.1%); however, atypical antipsychotics (36.3%) and benzodiazepines (42.3%) were also used.

Conclusions: Despite the recent advances in knowledge of sedation and delirium, most of them are still not translated into clinical practice. Significant variation in practice is observed among ICU physicians and represents a potential target for future research and educational interventions.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Brazil
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Critical Illness
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delirium / diagnosis*
  • Delirium / etiology
  • Delirium / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives* / administration & dosage
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives* / adverse effects
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration*
  • Physicians
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives