Biological treatment of acute agitation or aggression with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in the inpatient setting

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are chronic illnesses that commonly present with symptoms of acute agitation and aggression. These symptoms must be managed rapidly to prevent potential harm to the patient and others, including their caregivers, peers, and health care workers. A number of treatment options are available to clinicians to manage acute agitation and aggression, including non-pharmacologic behavioral and environmental de-escalation strategies, as well as biological treatment options such as pharmacologic agents and electroconvulsive therapy. We summarize the available biological treatment options for patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder presenting with acute agitation or aggression in the inpatient setting, focusing on antipsychotics.

METHODS

The following searches were used in PubMed to obtain the most relevant advances in treating schizophrenia or bipolar disorder with acute agitation and aggression: (agitation, agitated, aggression, aggressive, hostile, hostility, violent, or violence) and (schizophr*, psychosis, psychot*, psychos*, mania, manic, or bipolar) and (^pharmacologic, antipsychotic*, neuroleptic*, antiepileptic*, anti-seizure*, mood stabilizer*, lithium, benzodiazepine*, beta blocker, beta-blocker, alpha2, alpha-2, *histamine*, electroconvulsive, ECT, shock, or transcranial). Individual searches were performed for each drug class. The studies were limited to peer-reviewed, English-language, and human studies. Most were placebo-controlled randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or meta-analyses.

RESULTS

Among pharmacologic agents, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, anticonvulsants, and lithium have been studied in randomized trials. Some typical and, more recently, atypical antipsychotics are available as both oral and short-acting intramuscular (IM) formulations, with 1 typical antipsychotic also available as an inhalable formulation.

CONCLUSIONS:

Among the pharmacologic agents studied in RCTs, atypical antipsychotics have the best evidence to support efficacy both in oral and short-acting IM formulations, as well as in one instance in an inhal-able formulation.

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