Current Treatment Options in Psychiatry

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 1–16 | Cite as

Use of Antipsychotic Medications in Non-Substance-Related Delirium—the Gap Between Research Findings and Clinical Practices

  • Mehrul Hasnain
  • Tayyeb A. Tahir
Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders (J Csernansky, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders


Purpose of the review

Gaps exist between the research knowledge base and clinical practices pertaining to the use of antipsychotics in delirium. We reviewed 19 major randomized studies on the use of antipsychotics in non-substance-related delirium to understand factors contributing to this gap.

Recent findings

Based on limited literature, antipsychotics are not effective in treating delirium in patients who are mechanically ventilated intensive care unit patients and those in palliative care, but they may be effective in preventing delirium in high-risk patients after elective surgery. The literature on the use of antipsychotics for delirium in general hospital patients is less clear.


Delirium is a complex and heterogeneous syndrome and is influenced by several individual and clinical factors, which make researching its pharmacological treatment very difficult. Furthermore, heterogeneity of the studies is a barrier to reliable meta-analyses. Until methodologically sound literature pertinent to specific patient populations and clinical scenarios accumulates, we should use both the research literature and clinical expertise to formulate practice guidelines.


Antipsychotics Delirium Prevention Treatment Guidelines 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and informed consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

References and Recommended Reading

Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mehrul Hasnain
    • 1
  • Tayyeb A. Tahir
    • 2
  1. 1.Mount PearlCanada
  2. 2.University Hospital of WalesCardiffUK

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