Atypical antipsychotic medications to control symptoms of delirium in children and adolescents

J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2012 Apr;22(2):126-30. doi: 10.1089/cap.2011.0084. Epub 2012 Feb 24.


Background: Atypical antipsychotics have been documented to be effective in the management of delirium in adults, but despite considerable need, their use has been less studied in pediatric patients.

Objective: A retrospective chart review was done to describe the use of atypical antipsychotics in controlling symptoms of delirium in children and adolescents.

Methods: Pharmacy records at Children's Hospital Los Angeles were reviewed to identify patients to whom antipsychotic agents were dispensed over a 24-month period. Psychiatric inpatient consultations during the same 24-month period were reviewed. Patients 1-18 years old diagnosed with delirium given antipsychotics constituted the study population. Delirium Rating Scale-Revised-98 (DRS-R98) scores were retrospectively calculated, when possible, at time antipsychotic was started to confirm the initial diagnosis of delirium and evaluate symptom severity, and again when antipsychotic was stopped, to assess symptom response.

Results: Olanzapine (n=78), risperidone (n=13), and quetiapine (n=19) were used during the 2 years of the study. Mean patient age, length of treatment, and response were comparable for the three medications. For patients with two DRS-R98 scores available (n=75/110), mean DRS-R98 scores decreased significantly (p<0.001) with antipsychotic without significant adverse side effects.

Conclusion: Although randomized placebo-controlled studies are needed, atypical antipsychotic medications appeared to be effective and safe for managing delirium symptoms in pediatric patients while underlying etiology was addressed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Delirium / drug therapy*
  • Dibenzothiazepines / adverse effects
  • Dibenzothiazepines / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Olanzapine
  • Quetiapine Fumarate
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risperidone / adverse effects
  • Risperidone / therapeutic use*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Dibenzothiazepines
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Quetiapine Fumarate
  • Risperidone
  • Olanzapine