November 26, 2018

Background Information: Delirium is defined as an acute disorder of consciousness which can occur in up to 80% of mechanically ventilated ICU patients.1-5 This acute cognitive dysfunction is associated with prolonged hospital stay, increased mortality, longer periods of mechanical ventilation and long-term cognitive impairment compared to patients without delirium.4-8  Haloperidol, remains one of the most commonly used typical antipsychotics used to treat delirium internationally and within the United States.9,10 The Society of Critical Care Medicine’s recent guidelines do not suggest the use of Haloperidol in the prevention or treatment of delirium11 and understandably so as two randomized trials showed no reduction in duration of ICU delirium.5,12 Alternative therapies for delirium include atypical antipsychotics such as ziprasidone, however the literature shows conflicting evidence, with one study showing a benefit and another showing no effect.5,13 The authors of this study sought to examine the effects of these two treatments in a large multicenter, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.      

August 13, 2018

Background: Emergency providers frequently care for agitated patients ranging from restlessness to verbally and physically aggressive. Agitation is a symptom, not a diagnosis and these patients require careful evaluation to rule in or out serious medical conditions. Unfortunately, the agitation itself often obstructs this evaluation and places the patient, other patients and staff at risk. While verbal de-escalation can be effective in select cases, administration of medications for behavioral control is often required. Numerous medications are available for this indication, but the optimal approach is still unclear.

July 3, 2018

Background: In recent years, ketamine use has dramatically increased in the Emergency Department (ED). There are four major indications for the use of ketamine in the ED: analgesia with low dose ketamine (LDK), induction for rapid sequence intubation, procedural sedation and sedation of the agitated patient. A number of relative contraindications for ketamine exist though many of them have been debunked through analysis of the evidence. This includes the dogma that ketamine cannot be used in patients with head trauma (for fear of increasing the ICP) or in patients with hypertension or tachycardia.

One contraindication that persists, though, is that of a history of psychiatric illness. Ketamine is an N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor antagonist and it can produce a broad range of cognitive and behavioral disturbances including psychosis. These disturbances are short-lived in the majority of individuals but there is a fear that ketamine can cause decompensation of psychiatric illness. The ACEP Clinical Policy lists psychiatric illness as an absolute contraindication for dissociative sedation with ketamine (Green 2011).

February 16, 2017

Background: Acutely agitated and aggressive patients have become an unfortunate commonality in emergency departments throughout the world.  They are often the most difficult patient encounters during a shift. Initially, when these patients’ present, medical providers are trying to figure out the underlying etiology including organic, psychiatric, or drug related illness.  Coaxing agitated patients out of an aggressive and often altered state with verbal and environmental modification is often fruitless.  When verbal de-escalation does not work, the next options are physical and/or chemical sedation. Finding an ideal combination of medications for chemical sedation is critically important and the most ideal medication(s) need to work quickly and have a good safety profile. Over the last few years there is increasing literature evaluating different agents of chemical sedation, looking mainly at antipyschotic agents and benzodiazepines, in isolation and combination.