Haloperidol and Quetiapine for the Treatment of ICU-Associated Delirium in a Tertiary Pediatric ICU: A Propensity Score-Matched Cohort Study

Paediatr Drugs. 2021 Mar;23(2):159-169. doi: 10.1007/s40272-021-00437-3. Epub 2021 Feb 26.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to evaluate outcomes of pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) patients with delirium treated with haloperidol or quetiapine compared with propensity-matched, untreated patients.

Materials and methods: A single-center retrospective cohort study was conducted including PICU admissions of ≥ 48 h for children ≥ 2 months old with a positive delirium screening score (Cornell Assessment of Pediatric Delirium ≥ 9). We generated propensity scores for the likelihood of receiving treatment with haloperidol or quetiapine using logistic regression, and matched untreated to treated patients 2:1 to compare outcomes between groups.

Results: Among 846 eligible admissions, 27 were treated with haloperidol or quetiapine (3.2%). Time to first delirium-free score was similar for treated versus untreated patients. Treated patients had no significant change in delirium scores following treatment, while untreated patients' scores improved after the comparable matching time. Compared with untreated patients, haloperidol-treated patients had more subsequent days of delirium and exposure to neuromuscular blockade. Quetiapine-treated patients had more subsequent days of mechanical ventilation and exposure to neuromuscular blockade, longer PICU length of stay, and higher likelihood of functional decline at ICU discharge.

Conclusions: In our small, single-center study, patients treated with haloperidol or quetiapine showed no short-term improvement in delirium screening scores after starting treatment when compared with untreated, propensity score-matched patients. In addition, clinical outcomes were not improved or were worse among treated patients. A prospective trial is needed to evaluate whether antipsychotic medications benefit PICU patients with delirium.

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Delirium / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Haloperidol / administration & dosage*
  • Haloperidol / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric
  • Male
  • Propensity Score
  • Quetiapine Fumarate / therapeutic use*
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Quetiapine Fumarate
  • Haloperidol