Recommendation ID

Pharmacological treatment: In people in hospital who have delirium, which is the most effective medication (atypical antipsychotics, typical antipsychotics or benzodiazepines) compared with placebo or each other for treating delirium?

Any explanatory notes
(if applicable)

Why this is important?

Pharmacological interventions are currently used in clinical practice to manage the symptoms of delirium but the evidence for this is limited. One moderate-quality study showed that typical and atypical antipsychotics were clinically and cost effective compared with placebo, but there is no evidence for benzodiazepines. Pharmacological agents that alter the course of delirium or control particular symptoms might be useful in treating delirium, but we need to determine whether the medication should be given routinely or for selected symptoms, and what adverse events may occur. A large randomised trial (with at least 100 people in each arm) should be conducted in people in hospital with delirium to compare atypical antipsychotics, typical antipsychotics, or benzodiazepines with placebo, or each other, for the treatment of delirium. The outcomes should be recovery from delirium (complete response), and the duration and severity of delirium, measured using a validated diagnostic tool. Adverse events, notably extrapyramidal symptoms and stroke, should also be recorded.

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