Recommendation ID

Pharmacological prevention: In people in hospital who are at high risk of delirium, which medication (atypical antipsychotics, typical antipsychotics, benzodiazepines or acetylcholinesterase inhibitors), compared with placebo or each other, is more clinically and cost effective in preventing the development of delirium?

Any explanatory notes
(if applicable)

Why this is important?
The serious nature of delirium and its consequences makes it important to establish all methods of prevention. Pharmacological agents may be a simple preventive treatment for delirium, but there is uncertainty about effectiveness and side effects so they should be used with caution. The evidence is limited: 3 low-quality studies were found, each of which was unrepresentative either of the population or the medication used, but there was some indication of clinical effectiveness. A large randomised trial (with at least 100 people in each arm) should be conducted in people in hospital who are at high risk of delirium to compare atypical antipsychotics, typical antipsychotics, benzodiazepines or acetylcholinesterase inhibitors with placebo, or each other, for preventing delirium. The included populations should be defined in terms of their delirium risk (for example people at high risk could be those with 2 or more risk factors for delirium). The primary outcome should be the incidence of delirium, measured at least daily using a validated diagnostic tool. The severity and duration of delirium should also be recorded, together with adverse effects of the medication, notably extrapyramidal symptoms and stroke.

Source guidance details

Comes from guidance
Delirium: prevention, diagnosis and management in hospital and long-term care
Date issued
July 2010

Other details

Is this a recommendation for the use of a technology only in the context of research? No  
Is it a recommendation that suggests collection of data or the establishment of a register?   No  
Last Reviewed 31/01/2023