Prehospital sedation with intramuscular droperidol: A one-year pilot

John L Hick, B. D. Mahoney, M. Lappe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective. Combative patients pose a threat to themselves and prehospital personnel, and are at risk for sudden death. Droperidol is an antipsychotic and sedative agent that might be effectively utilized by paramedics to assist in the management of uncontrollably violent patients. Methods. A prospective observational study of patients requiring sedation was conducted in an urban third-service emergency medical services system (55,000 calls per year). Patients were scored by paramedics on a five-point agitation scale with 5 being extremely combative (continuous, vigorous fighting against restraints) and 1 being somnolent (sleeping or sleepy). Eligible (score 4-5) patients received 5 mg of intramuscular droperidol on direct physician order. Data including vital signs and agitation scores were recorded at 5-minute intervals until hospital arrival. Adverse effects were also recorded. Results. Fifty-three patients received droperidol (51 patients received 5 mg; two received 2.5 mg) during the study period. The average predrug agitation score was 4.7 (±0.1 SD). The average 5-minute postdrug score was 3.9 (±0.1 SD, 95% CI 3.7-4.1). The average 10-minute postdrug score was 3.3 (±0.1 SD, 95% CI 3.1-3.6). The average hospital arrival score was 2.8 (±0.1 SD, 95% CI 2.5-3.1). One patient became obtunded and required supplemental oxygen; no other patient experienced an adverse event after receiving droperidol. Sedation was ineffective in seven patients, three of whom had head injuries, and one of whom received 2.5 mg of droperidol per physician order. Paramedics sustained no needlestick exposures. Conclusion. Intramuscular droperidol contributed to effective and rapid prehospital sedation in this observational series of 53 combative patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-394
Number of pages4
JournalPrehospital Emergency Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


  • Delirium
  • Droperidol
  • Emergency medical services
  • Tranquilizing agents

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