Detection and Management of Delirium in the Neonatal Unit: A Case Series

Pediatrics. 2016 Mar;137(3):e20153369. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-3369. Epub 2016 Feb 2.


Delirium is increasingly recognized as a common syndrome in critically ill children, but in our experience, it is rarely considered in the NICU. Delirium is independently associated with prolonged length of stay and adverse long-term outcomes in children. We report the cases of 3 infants cared for in our NICU at corrected gestational ages of 4, 11, and 17 weeks who presented with classic symptoms of delirium. All 3 children had complex medical problems and were receiving multiple analgesic and sedative medications. All 3 children exhibited agitation that was unresponsive to increasing doses of medications, and they all appeared to improve after treatment with quetiapine, allowing weaning of other medications. It is possible that with increased vigilance, delirium will be increasingly recognized in newborns, thus allowing tailored intervention. Further research is needed to investigate the prevalence and associated risk factors for developing delirium in the NICU and to explore possible treatment options.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Critical Illness*
  • Delirium / diagnosis*
  • Delirium / drug therapy
  • Disease Management*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Male


  • Antipsychotic Agents