Background: Agitation and aggression are significant problems in acute psychiatric units. There is little consensus on which drug is most effective and safest for sedation of these patients.
Aims: To compare the effectiveness and safety of haloperidol v. droperidol for patients with agitation and aggression.
Method: In a masked, randomised controlled trial (ACTRN12611000565943) intramuscular droperidol (10 mg) was compared with intramuscular haloperidol (10 mg) for adult patients with acute behavioural disturbance in a psychiatric intensive care unit. The primary outcome was time to sedation within 120 min. Secondary outcomes were use of additional sedation, adverse events and staff injuries.
Results: From 584 patients, 110 were randomised to haloperidol and 118 to droperidol. Effective sedation occurred in 210 (92%) patients within 120 min. There was no significant difference in median time to sedation: 20 min (interquartile range 15-30, range 10-75) for haloperidol v. 25 min (IQR 15-30, range 10-115) for droperidol (P = 0.89). Additional sedation was used more often with haloperidol (13% v. 5%, P = 0.06), but adverse effects were less common with haloperidol (1% v. 5%, P = 0.12). There were 8 staff injuries.
Conclusions: Both haloperidol and droperidol were effective for sedation of patients with acute behavioural disturbance.
Royal College of Psychiatrists.