Haloperidol for preventing delirium in ICU patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2021 Feb;25(3):1582-1591. doi: 10.26355/eurrev_202102_24868.


Objective: Delirium, a common behavioral manifestation of acute brain dysfunction in Intensive Care Unit (ICU), is a significant contributor to mortality and worse long-term outcome. Antipsychotics, especially haloperidol, are commonly administered for the treatment and prevention of delirium in critically ill patients while the evidence for the safety and efficacy of these drugs is still lacking. Therefore, we conducted a systematic review of the benefits of haloperidol for the prevention of delirium in ICU patients.

Materials and methods: We made a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Results: Eight RCTs with 2806 patients were included. The prophylactic use of haloperidol did not reduce the delirium incidence (RR: 0.90, 95% CI: 0.69-1.71), the duration of delirium (MD: -0.33, 95% CI: -1.25-0.588) and the delirium/coma free days (MD: 0.08, 95% CI: -0.06-0.23). We did not find an increase of extrapyramidal effects (RR: 1.86, 95% CI: 0.30-11.39), QTc prolongation (RR: 1.11, 95% CI: 0.79-1.55) and arrhythmias (RR: 1.26, 95% CI: 0.72-2.19). The use of haloperidol did not increase the ICU (MD: 0.77, 95% CI: -0.28-1.83) and hospital length of stay (MD: -0.57, 95% CI: -1.32-0.18). Haloperidol did not increase the sedation level (RR: 1.88, 95% CI: 0.76-4.63) and mortality (RR: 0.97, 95% CI: 0.83-1.18).

Conclusions: Haloperidol did not reduce the delirium incidence, the delirium duration, the delirium/coma free-days and did not increase the incidence of extrapyramidal effects, arrhythmias, the ICU and hospital length of stays and sedation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Delirium / drug therapy*
  • Haloperidol / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Haloperidol