Pharmacological Management of Acute Agitation

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53226, USA.
Drugs (Impact Factor: 4.34). 02/2005; 65(9):1207-22. DOI: 10.2165/00003495-200565090-00003
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Acute agitation occurs in a variety of medical and psychiatric conditions, and when severe can result in behavioural dyscontrol. Rapid tranquillisation is the assertive use of medication to calm severely agitated patients quickly, decrease dangerous behaviour and allow treatment of the underlying condition. Intramuscular injections of typical antipsychotics and benzodiazepines, given alone or in combination, have been the treatment of choice over the past few decades. Haloperidol and lorazepam are the most widely used agents for acute agitation, are effective in a wide diagnostic arena and can be used in medically compromised patients. Haloperidol can cause significant extrapyramidal symptoms, and has rarely been associated with cardiac arrhythmia and sudden death. Lorazepam can cause ataxia, sedation and has additive effects with other CNS depressant drugs.Recently, two fast-acting preparations of atypical antipsychotics, intramuscular ziprasidone and intramuscular olanzapine, have been developed for treatment of acute agitation. Intramuscular ziprasidone has shown significant calming effects emerging 30 minutes after administration for acutely agitated patients with schizophrenia and other nonspecific psychotic conditions. Intramuscular ziprasidone is well tolerated and has gained widespread use in psychiatric emergency services since its introduction in 2002. In comparison with other atypical antipsychotics, ziprasidone has a relatively greater propensity to increase the corrected QT (QTc) interval and, therefore, should not be used in patients with known QTc interval-associated conditions. Intramuscular olanzapine has shown faster onset of action, greater efficacy and fewer adverse effects than haloperidol or lorazepam in the treatment of acute agitation associated with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar mania and dementia. Intramuscular olanzapine has been shown to have distinct calming versus nonspecific sedative effects. The recent reports of adverse events (including eight fatalities) associated with intramuscular olanzapine underscores the need to follow strict prescribing guidelines and avoid simultaneous use with other CNS depressants. Both intramuscular ziprasidone and intramuscular olanzapine have shown ease of transition to same-agent oral therapy once the episode of acute agitation has diminished. No randomised, controlled studies have examined either agent in patients with severe agitation, drug-induced states or significant medical comorbidity. Current clinical experience and one naturalistic study with intramuscular ziprasidone suggest that it is efficacious and can be safely used in such populations. These intramuscular atypical antipsychotics may represent a historical advance in the treatment of acute agitation.

26 Reads
  • Source
    • "Each of these medications offers a unique pharmacological profile that must be considered when treating agitated patients, who may be unwilling or unable to adequately communicate their medical status and concomitant medications (Zimbroff, 2008). Intramuscular injections of FGA and BDZ, given alone or in combination, have been the treatment of choice over the past few decades, with haloperidol and lorazepam being among the most widely used agents for agitation (Battaglia, 2005). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Agitated behavior constitutes up to 10% of emergency psychiatric interventions. Pharmacological tranquilization is often used as a valid treatment for agitation but a strong evidence base does not underpin it. Available literature shows different recommendations, supported by research data, theoretical considerations, or clinical experience. Rapid tranquilization (RT) is mainly based on parenteral drug treatment and the few existing guidelines on this topic, when suggesting the use of first generation antipsychotics and benzodiazepines, include drugs with questionable tolerability profile such as chlorpromazine, haloperidol, midazolam, and lorazepam. In order to systematically evaluate safety concerns related to the adoption of such guidelines, we reviewed them independently from principal diagnosis while examining tolerability data for suggested treatments. There is a growing evidence about safety profile of second generation antipsychotics for RT but further controlled studies providing definitive data in this area are urgently needed.
    Frontiers in Psychiatry 05/2013; 4:26. DOI:10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00026
  • Source
    • "The proper management of an agitated patient is essential to keep staff safe and ensure appropriate treatment for the patient. Most emergency physicians think of agitation as one of the simplest cases to treat, with haloperidol being a common approach in many emergency departments.1–4 In most circumstances, nonpharmacologic methods of behavior control, such as a verbal intervention, de-escalation, or even nicotine replacement therapy, may be helpful initially to manage agitated patients.5,6 "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Agitation is common in the medical and psychiatric emergency department, and appropriate management of agitation is a core competency for emergency clinicians. In this article, the authors review the use of a variety of first-generation antipsychotic drugs, second-generation antipsychotic drugs, and benzodiazepines for treatment of acute agitation, and propose specific guidelines for treatment of agitation associated with a variety of conditions, including acute intoxication, psychiatric illness, delirium, and multiple or idiopathic causes. Pharmacologic treatment of agitation should be based on an assessment of the most likely cause of the agitation. If agitation results from a delirium or other medical condition, clinicians should first attempt to treat the underlying cause instead of simply medicating with antipsychotics or benzodiazepines.
    The western journal of emergency medicine 02/2012; 13(1):26-34. DOI:10.5811/westjem.2011.9.6866
  • Source
    • "However, benzodiazepines are still relevant add‐on medication in schizophrenia management . Lorazepam alone or in combination with first‐ generation antipsychotics given as intramuscular injection have been the treatment of choice for many years in treatment of acute agitation (Battaglia, 2005). Very few studies reflect the role of non‐benzodiazepine anxiolytics, sedatives and hypnotics in schizophrenia. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Patients treated with antipsychotic drugs often receive concomitant psychotropic compounds. Few studies address this issue from a lifetime perspective. Here, an analysis is presented of the prescription pattern of such concomitant medication from the first contact with psychiatry until the last written note in the case history documents, in patients with a diagnosis of psychotic illness. A retrospective descriptive analysis of all case history data of 66 patients diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizophrenia-like psychotic disorders. Benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-related anxiolytic drugs had been prescribed to 95% of the patients, other anxiolytics, sedatives or hypnotic drugs to 61%, anti-parkinsonism drugs to 86%, and antidepressants to 56% of the patients. However, lifetime doses were small and most of the time patients had no concomitant medication. The prescribed lifetime dose of anti-parkinsonism drugs was associated with that of prescribed first-generation but not second-generation antipsychotics. Most psychosis patients are sometimes treated with concomitant drugs but mainly over short periods. Lifetime concomitant add-on medication at the individual patient level is variable and complex but not extensive. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    Human Psychopharmacology Clinical and Experimental 06/2011; 26(4-5):322-31. DOI:10.1002/hup.1209 · 2.19 Impact Factor
Show more