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Refractory hyperactive delirium in the dying: pharmacological management


Background Delirium is a prevalent clinical presentation in advanced illness. The hyperactive phase can cause severe symptoms at the end of life. There is no published study of the pharmacological management of this symptom in Australian palliative medicine practice.

Objectives To describe the pharmacological management of hyperactive delirium at the end of life in an Australian inpatient palliative care setting.

Methods Retrospective audit of deaths from October 2019 where a medication of interest (MOI) was used following admission to the palliative care unit (PCU) of Eastern Health. The clinical notes of those included were reviewed to further describe the clinical details surrounding the use of the MOI.

Results Forty patients were included. Midazolam was the most common medication used (57.5%). The most common dual agent combination was midazolam plus levomepromazine.

Conclusions This audit is the first description of pharmacological management of severe hyperactive delirium at the end of life requiring sedation in an Australian PCU.

  • delirium
  • pharmacology
  • symptoms and symptom management
  • terminal care

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