Suicide risk assessment in the emergency department: Are there any tools in the pipeline?

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Abstract

Background:

It is estimated that as many as 1 in 10 individuals who complete suicide had been seen in emergency departments within the prior 2 months. However, very little evidence underlies the current recommendations on managing patients with suicidal ideation presenting to the emergency department. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and Veterans Affairs/Department of Defense (VA/DoD) have developed clinical practice guidelines for the screening and treatment of patients with suicidal ideation who present to emergency departments. In this study we investigated the extent to which new and ongoing studies are being conducted to address the current limitations in suicide screening in emergency departments.

Methods:

We identified low-level recommendations in clinical practice guidelines that have been set forth by the ACEP and VA/DoD. PICO questions were then created to help identify relevant studies pertaining to screening patients with suicidal ideation in the emergency department. PICO questions were used to develop search strings, which were then used to locate studies from ClinicalTrials.gov and the World Health Organization's International Clinical Trials Registry Platform.

Results:

Seventeen PICO questions were created for this study. We found 11 studies addressing gaps identified in the clinical practice guidelines. Of the 17 PICO questions created, 10 were being addressed by 11 studies.

Conclusions:

Little research is being done to improve suicide risk assessment tools in the emergency department. Further research in this area may decrease health care costs, improve patient care, and save the lives of those at risk of dying by suicide.

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