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Quetiapine in refractory hyperactive and mixed intensive care delirium: a case series

Ruth YY Wan1, Moneesha Kasliwal2, Catherine A McKenzie1* and Nicholas A Barrett2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kings College London and Department of Pharmacy Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7EH, UK

2 Department of Critical Care, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7EH, UK

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Critical Care 2011, 15:R159  doi:10.1186/cc10294

See related letter by Wiseet al.,

Published: 28 June 2011



Delirium affects up to 80% of patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) and contributes to increased morbidity and mortality. Haloperidol is the gold standard for treatment, although quetiapine has been successfully used in the management of delirium.


We conducted a retrospective study of patients admitted to the ICU between February 2008 and May 2010 who were prescribed quetiapine by the attending clinician. Data collected included demographics, history of drug and/or alcohol dependence, ICU and hospital length of stay, length of mechanical ventilation and the duration of treatment with sedatives and medications for delirium. The daily dose of quetiapine was recorded. Hyperactive or mixed delirium was identified by a validated chart review and a Richmond Agitation Sedation Scale (RASS) score persistently greater than 1 for 48 hours despite therapy.


Seventeen patients were included. Delirium onset occurred after a median of five days. Patients were being given at least four agents for delirium prior to the introduction of quetiapine, and they had a median RASS score of 3. Quetiapine was initiated at a 25 mg daily dose and titrated to a median daily dose of 50 mg. The median duration of delirium prior to quetiapine therapy was 15 days. Quetiapine commencement was associated with a reduction in the need for other medications (within 0 to 6 days) and resolution of delirium within a median of four days. Adverse events included somnolence and transient hypotension.


This case series provides an initial effort to explore a possible role for quetiapine in the management of refractory hyperactive and mixed ICU delirium.