Haloperidol for sedation of disruptive emergency patients

Joseph E. Clinton, Steven Sterner, Zigfrid Stelmachers, Ernest Ruiz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Agitated, threatening, or violent behavior often jeopardizes the patient with self-inflicted injury or delays medical evaluation and treatment. Patient cooperation with therapy can be achieved using haloperidol by the IM, IV, or oral route. The safety and efficacy of haloperidol in the emergency department setting was examined. Haloperidol was administered to 136 patients to control behavior. Eighty-eight received the drug in the ED; 18 of these 88 were critical patients receiving the drug during resuscitation. Forty-eight of the 136 were crisis intervention center patients. Ninety patients were acutely intoxicated with ethanol. Twenty-three patients had head trauma; 20 of these also were inebriated. Various other drugs were responsible for the behavior of 15 patients. Acute psychosis was involved in 40 cases. Thirty-one patients were thought to have a personality disorder. The route of administration of haloperidol was intramuscular in 110, IV in 19, and oral in seven patients. Disruptive behavior was alleviated within 30 minutes in 113 of 136 (83%) patients. Effect was judged suboptimal in 20 of 136 (15%), and no effect was noted in three of 136 (2%) patients. Four complications (3%) were noted, three minor and one more serious episode of hypotension in a critical patient. Haloperidol is a safe and efficacious drug for use with disruptive patients in the emergency setting. It is a useful tool for management of agitation of diverse etiologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-322
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of Emergency Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1987


  • haloperidol
  • sedation
  • use in emergency department


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