Most previous studies on the efficacy of antipsychotic medication for the treatment of delirium have reported that there is no significant difference between typical and atypical antipsychotic medications. It is known, however, that older age might be a predictor of poor response to antipsychotics in the treatment of delirium. The objective of this study was to compare the efficacy and safety of haloperidol versus three atypical antipsychotic medications (risperidone, olanzapine, and quetiapine) for the treatment of delirium with consideration of patient age.
This study was a 6-day, prospective, comparative clinical observational study of haloperidol versus atypical antipsychotic medications (risperidone, olanzapine, and quetiapine) in patients with delirium at a tertiary level hospital. The subjects were referred to the consultation-liaison psychiatric service for management of delirium and were screened before enrollment in this study. A total of 80 subjects were assigned to receive either haloperidol (N = 23), risperidone (N = 21), olanzapine (N = 18), or quetiapine (N = 18). The efficacy was evaluated using the Korean version of the Delirium Rating Scale-Revised-98 (DRS-K) and the Korean version of the Mini Mental Status Examination (K-MMSE). The safety was evaluated by the Udvalg Kliniske Undersogelser side effect rating scale.
There were no significant differences in mean DRS-K severity or K-MMSE scores among the four groups at baseline. In all groups, the DRS-K severity score decreased and the K-MMSE score increased significantly over the study period. However, there were no significant differences in the improvement of DRS-K or K-MMSE scores among the four groups. Similarly, cognitive and non-cognitive subscale DRS-K scores decreased regardless of the treatment group. The treatment response rate was lower in patients over 75 years old than in patients under 75 years old. Particularly, the response rate to olanzapine was poorer in the older age group. Fifteen subjects experienced a few adverse events, but there were no significant differences in adverse event profiles among the four groups.
Haloperidol, risperidone, olanzapine, and quetiapine were equally efficacious and safe in the treatment of delirium. However, age is a factor that needs to be considered when making a choice of antipsychotic medication for the treatment of delirium.