Sedative Use May Decrease Delirium

By: Katie Campbell

            It has been reported that delirium in the critically ill patient extends hospital stays and increases mortality. A new study, performed in Boston and Quebec, has shown low-dose night time sedative use may prevent delirium in this population. 100 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients who did not have delirium at the time of enrollment were entered into the double-blind study. Half the patients were randomly assigned to receive low-dose dexmedetomidine, a sedative, while the other half received a placebo.

            They found that 80% of the patients in the dexmedetomidine group did not develop delirium as compared to the 54% of patients in the control group who did. Additionally, the experimental group spent two more days delirium-free and experienced a significant reduction pain (and a decrease in opiate use) during their time in the ICU. There was no difference found in the length of ICU stay, length of hospitalization, or ICU mortality. Dr. Yoanna Skorbik, the primary investigator for the project, suggests that these results are strong enough to alter practices, and advises that centers increase their use of dexmedetomidine in high-risk patients. These findings provide an exciting step forward in the prevention of delirium and overall treatment of ICU patients.


American Thoracic Society. "Sedative may prevent delirium in the ICU." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 March 2018. <>.