Aripiprazole: A New Option in Delirium

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Abstract

Delirium is a palliative care emergency where patients experience changes in perception, awareness, and behavior. Common features include changes in the sleep–wake cycle, emotional lability, delusional thinking, and language and thought disorders. Delirium results from neurotransmitter imbalances involving several neurotransmitters such as dopamine, glutamate, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, gamma-aminobutyric acid, and serotonin. Untreated delirium causes significant morbidity and mortality. Nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic approaches treat delirium. Current pharmacologic management of delirium involves using agents such as haloperidol or second-generation antipsychotics. Third-generation atypical antipsychotic drugs have emerged as a potential choice for delirium management. Aripiprazole is a third-generation antipsychotic with a dopamine receptor-binding profile distinct from other second-generation antipsychotics. Aripiprazole acts as partial agonist at dopamine D2 and 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)1A receptors, stabilizing the dopamine receptor leading to improvement in symptoms. The article reviews the pharmacology, pharmacodynamics, metabolism, and evidence of clinical efficacy for this new antipsychotic agent. This article explores possible roles in palliative care.

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