The diagnosis and management of delirium in infancy

J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2013 Jun;23(5):352-6. doi: 10.1089/cap.2013.0001.


Objective: Atypical antipsychotics have been documented to be effective in the management of delirium in adults and older children, but despite considerable need, their use has been less studied in the very young. A retrospective chart review was undertaken to describe the use of atypical antipsychotics in controlling symptoms of delirium in infants and toddlers.

Methods: All psychiatric inpatient consultations performed during a 3 year period were reviewed to identify children <36 months old diagnosed with delirium. Delirium Rating Scale (DRS) scores were retrospectively calculated when the antipsychotic was initiated and discontinued, to confirm the diagnosis of delirium and evaluate symptom severity, and then to assess symptom response to pharmacologic intervention.

Results: There were 10 boys and 9 girls in the study population (ages 7-30 months, mean 20.5 months). Olanzapine (n=16) and risperidone (n=3) were used, and length of treatment and response were comparable for both medications. Mean DRS scores decreased significantly (p<0.001) with antipsychotic administration, without significant adverse side effects.

Conclusions: Although randomized placebo controlled studies are needed to better characterize the indications, risks, and benefits, these atypical antipsychotic medications appeared to be effective and safe for managing delirium symptoms in very young pediatric patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Delirium / diagnosis
  • Delirium / drug therapy*
  • Delirium / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Olanzapine
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risperidone / adverse effects
  • Risperidone / therapeutic use*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Risperidone
  • Olanzapine