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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Haloperidol prophylaxis in critically ill patients with a high risk for delirium

Mark van den Boogaard1*, Lisette Schoonhoven23, Theo van Achterberg2, Johannes G van der Hoeven14 and Peter Pickkers14

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Intensive Care Medicine, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, P.O. 9101, 6500HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands

2 Scientific Institute for Quality of Healthcare, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, P.O. 9101, 6500HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands

3 Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

4 Nijmegen Institute for Infection, Inflammation and Immunity (N4i), Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, P.O. 9101, 6500HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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Critical Care 2013, 17:R9  doi:10.1186/cc11933

Published: 17 January 2013

Abstract

Introduction

Delirium is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. We implemented a delirium prevention policy in intensive care unit (ICU) patients with a high risk of developing delirium, and evaluated if our policy resulted in quality improvement of relevant delirium outcome measures.

Methods

This study was a before/after evaluation of a delirium prevention project using prophylactic treatment with haloperidol. Patients with a predicted risk for delirium of ≥ 50%, or with a history of alcohol abuse or dementia, were identified. According to the prevention protocol these patients received haloperidol 1 mg/8 h. Evaluation was primarily focused on delirium incidence, delirium free days without coma and 28-day mortality. Results of prophylactic treatment were compared with a historical control group and a contemporary group that did not receive haloperidol prophylaxis mainly due to non-compliance to the protocol mostly during the implementation phase.

Results

In 12 months, 177 patients received haloperidol prophylaxis. Except for sepsis, patient characteristics were comparable between the prevention and the historical (n = 299) groups. Predicted chance to develop delirium was 75 ± 19% and 73 ± 22%, respectively. Haloperidol prophylaxis resulted in a lower delirium incidence (65% vs. 75%, P = 0.01), and more delirium-free-days (median 20 days (IQR 8 to 27) vs. median 13 days (3 to 27), P = 0.003) in the intervention group compared to the control group. Cox-regression analysis adjusted for sepsis showed a hazard rate of 0.80 (95% confidence interval 0.66 to 0.98) for 28-day mortality. Beneficial effects of haloperidol appeared most pronounced in the patients with the highest risk for delirium. Furthermore, haloperidol prophylaxis resulted in less ICU re-admissions (11% vs. 18%, P = 0.03) and unplanned removal of tubes/lines (12% vs. 19%, P = 0.02). Haloperidol was stopped in 12 patients because of QTc-time prolongation (n = 9), renal failure (n = 1) or suspected neurological side-effects (n = 2). No other side-effects were reported. Patients who were not treated during the intervention period (n = 59) showed similar results compared to the untreated historical control group.

Conclusions

Our evaluation study suggests that prophylactic treatment with low dose haloperidol in critically ill patients with a high risk for delirium probably has beneficial effects. These results warrant confirmation in a randomized controlled trial.

Trial registration

clinicaltrial.gov Identifier: NCT01187667.