Antipsychotic Treatment of Delirium in Critically Ill Children: A Retrospective Matched Cohort Study

J Pediatr Pharmacol Ther. 2019 May-Jun;24(3):204-213. doi: 10.5863/1551-6776-24.3.204.


Objective: To describe the use of pharmacologic treatment in critically ill children treated according to a delirium protocol and compare those treated with antipsychotics to those treated non-pharmacologically.

Methods>: The study included a retrospective matched cohort describing patients who were pharmacologically treated for delirium compared to those with delirium but not treated in a PICU from December 2013 to September 2015, using a delirium management protocol. Patients were matched by age, sex, diagnosis, mechanical ventilation (MV), and presence of delirium.

Results: Of 1875 patients screened, 188 (10.03%) were positive for delirium. Of those, 15 patients (8%) were treated with an antipsychotic for delirium. Patients with delirium treated with antipsychotics were younger, had more delirium days (6 vs. 3, p=0.022), longer MV days (14 vs. 7, p=0.017), and longer PICU length of stay (34 vs. 16 days, p=0.029) than in the untreated group. Haloperidol, risperidone, and quetiapine were used in 9, 6, and 2 patients, respectively. Two patients were treated with multiple antipsychotics. Antipsychotic treatment was initiated on day 2 of delirium for 8 of 15 patients (53.3%). Ten patients in the treatment group had improved delirium scores by day 2 of treatment. No significant differences in sedation exposure between groups. No significant adverse effects were reported.

Conclusions: No significant adverse events seen in this small cohort of critically ill pediatric patients with delirium treated with antipsychotic therapy. Patients with early-onset delirium refractory to non-pharmacologic treatment may have a more effective response to antipsychotic therapy than patients with late-onset refractory delirium.

Keywords: antipsychotics; critical illness; delirium; haloperidol; pediatric; quetiapine; risperidone.