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November 22, 1993

Neuroleptic Prescriptions for Acutely Ill Geriatric Patients

Author Affiliations

From the Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, Mass.

Arch Intern Med. 1993;153(22):2581-2587. doi:10.1001/archinte.1993.00410220093010

Background:  Use of neuroleptic medication by the general population of acute care hospitals and in geriatric populations in long-term care has been described. This study examines the use of neuroleptics in acutely ill medical/ surgical geriatric patients.

Methods:  Chart review was performed for geriatric patients prescribed a neuroleptic drug during a 2-month study period. Patient characteristics, indications for drug use, and evaluations of cognitive or behavioral dysfunction were noted. For the patients who received only haloperidol, the type of order was described and prescription strategies were identified.

Results:  Ninety-one (10.7%) of 848 patients received a neuroleptic order. They were older and stayed longer than the rest of the geriatric population. Fifty-eight percent were demented or delirious but 31.9% were simply described as agitated or had no reason identified for drug use. Haloperidol was the sole neuroleptic prescribed for 91.2% of patients. The rationale behind the strategies for drug prescription (loading, maintenance, sporadic) was not clear.

Conclusion:  This study raises concerns about the quality of documentation around drug use and the adequacy of diagnostic evaluation prior to drug prescription. The strategies of drug treatment do not consistently reflect a working knowledge of the pharmacology of the drug or a diagnosis-based plan of treatment. Future research should focus on physician education and the efficacy of diagnosis and management of the agitated elder.(Arch Intern Med. 1993;153:2581-2587)