A descriptive analysis of pharmacological management of aggression and/or agitation in patients with traumatic brain injury in a Southwest Virginia inpatient population


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What Is Known and Objective Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of disability, and it has been associated with agitation and aggression. In a previous study, we reviewed the literature to identify evidence-based pharmacological agents for treatment of agitation in TBI. Based on the results of our previous study that summarizes the findings of several systematic reviews, the use of haloperidol and benzodiazepines is not supported by the available evidence while the use of amantadine, beta blockers, antiepileptics and methylphenidate is supported by the limited available evidence. In this study, we describe the psycho-pharmacological agents that were administered to patients with agitation and/or aggression in the context of TBI in inpatient facilities of a private, non-profit health care system in southwest Virginia. We will also compare the psycho-pharmacological agents ordered before and after psychiatric consultation. Methods Adult patients who were admitted to Carilion Clinic's inpatient facilities from March 30, 2013, to March 30, 2018, had a diagnosis of TBI, and received psychiatric consultation for agitation and/or aggression were enrolled in this study. A retrospective review of electronic medical records was conducted by researchers and data were collected on the following measures: ordered psycho-pharmacological agents, frequency, dosing and duration of orders, whether each administered psycho-pharmacological agent was started before or after psychiatric consultation, and psycho-pharmacological agents prescribed upon discharge. Results and Discussion About 68% of patients were started on benzodiazepines and/or typical antipsychotics and 23% of patients were subsequently discharged on these medication categories. Only 23% of patients were ordered to receive medications supported by the evidence such as amantadine, beta blockers or antiepileptics. The percentage of patient-days with an order to receive typical antipsychotics significantly decreased following psychiatric consultation (p = 0.0056), but the percentage of patient-days with an order to receive benzodiazepines significantly increased following psychiatric consultation (p = 0.0001). This finding remained statistically significant after excluding patients with active or unclear alcohol/benzodiazepine withdrawal (p < 0.0001). What Is New and Conclusion This study demonstrates the widespread use of typical antipsychotics and benzodiazepines in the management of agitation in TBI and the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration, research and education of providers to improve patient care.



agitation, traumatic brain injury