Objective To evaluate the safety and efficacy of continuous infusion of haloperidol in treating agitated critically ill adult patients.
Design Case series of patients treated with continuous infusion of haloperidol and followed to hospital discharge, during a 6-month period.
Setting A 34-bed multidisciplinary intensive care unit (ICU) in a 598-bed nonuniversity, tertiary care teaching hospital.
Patients Consecutive sample of eight patients requiring mechanical ventilation who had severe agitation which was refractory to intermittent bolus treatment with benzodiazepines, narcotics, and haloperidol.
Interventions Continuous infusions of haloperidol (range 3 to 25 mg/hr) were supplemented, as required, to maintain adequate sedation.
Measurements and Main Results The four men and four women averaged 47 yrs of age, and the average length of hospitalization was 33 days, with 25 days spent in the ICU. On the day continuous infusion of haloperidol was initiated, the average Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) II and Therapeutic Intervention Scoring System (TISS) scores were 24 and 47, respectively. The Sedation-Agitation Scale score averaged +2.4 (maximum agitation score being +3) before continuous infusion of haloperidol decreasing to +1.8 after 1 day (p = .38) and to +0.8 after 2 days (p = .06) of continuous infusion of haloperidol. The average daily haloperidol dose increased from 68 mg before continuous infusion of haloperidol to 269 mg (p < .008) after 1 day. The daily total of nonhaloperidol sedatives decreased from 18.3 to 10.9 sedation-equivalent units (p = .15) and the daily number of bolus administrations of sedatives decreased from 23 to 7 (p = .01) after 1 day of continuous infusion of haloperidol. Estimated nursing time to prepare, administer, and monitor these bolus medications decreased from 320 to 96 mins per 24 hrs (p = .01). Of the five patients discharged alive (37.5% mortality rate), four were successfully weaned from assisted ventilation during continuous infusion of haloperidol. Two of these four patients were difficult to wean because of agitation and oversedation. Four possible complications were noted: minor tremors (n = 2), atrial dysrhythmias with intermittent third-degree atrioventricular block and QT interval prolongation (n = 1), and ventricular tachycardia (n = 1).
Conclusions Continuous infusion of haloperidol effectively controls severe agitation in critically ill patients, reduces requirements for bolus administration of sedatives and nursing time lost to that task, and may facilitate ventilator weaning. Parenteral administration of haloperidol was associated with few complications in > 1,340 patient-hours of continuous administration. (Crit Care Med 1994; 22:433–440)
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