Antipsychotic Selection for Acute Agitation and Time to Repeat Use in a Psychiatric Emergency Department

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Early recognition and treatment of agitated patients is essential to avoid violence in the psychiatric emergency department (ED). Antipsychotics have established efficacy in managing agitation, yet little is known about how the choice of initial antipsychotic impacts time to repeat use and length of stay (LOS) in the psychiatric ED.


To describe the impact of initial antipsychotic selection on time to repeat use and LOS in the psychiatric ED.


A chart review identified 388 cases in which patients were administered an antipsychotic for agitation in the psychiatric ED between July 1 and August 31, 2014. Time to repeat use and LOS were compared for intramuscular (IM) haloperidol, other IM antipsychotics, and oral second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) using the Kruskal-Wallis or Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test.


Of the 388 cases, 31% (n=122) required repeat medications. Mean time to repeat use for IM haloperidol was 20.1±18.4 hours, which was not significantly different from mean time to repeat use in the groups receiving other IM antipsychotics or oral SGAs (P=0.35). The mean LOS was 29.7±28.7 hours for IM haloperidol, 30.3±36.9 hours for other IM antipsychotics, and 22.6±28.0 hours for oral SGAs. Significant differences in LOS between repeat and nonrepeat users of IM haloperidol and other IM antipsychotics were observed, but not among those who received oral SGAs.


Mean time to repeat use ranged from 14 to 20 hours with IM haloperidol, other IM antipsychotics, and oral SGAs without significant differences in time to repeat use in the 3 different groups. Repeat users of IM antipsychotics had a significantly longer LOS in the ED compared with nonrepeat users of IM antipsychotics. However, patients who were initially administered oral SGAs did not have longer LOS in the ED even if a repeat dose was given.

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