A naturalistic study: 100 Consecutive episodes of acute agitation in a psychiatric emergency department

J. C. Pascual, M. Madre, D. Puigdemont, S. Oller, I. Corripio, A. Díaz, G. Faus, Víctor Pérez, E. Álvarez

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction. Psychomotor agitation is a common event in psychiatric emergency services (PES) with a prevalence of approximately 10%. There is no general consensus on to how to manage psychomotor agitation; benzodiazepines, typical antipsychotics and now atypical antipsychotics have demonstrated similar efficacy. The aim of our study was to describe the epidemiology and clinical management of agitation in «real-life» in a psychiatric emergency service. Methods. A naturalistic study was performed in acutely agitated patients recruited consecutively in a psychiatric emergency service. Demographics, clinical and therapeutic characteristics were analyzed. Efficacy was assessed by the Excitement Component of the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS-EC) and the Agitation-Calmness Evaluation Scale (ACES). Pragmatic variables such as the need for second pharmacological intervention and the need for physical restraints were assessed. Results. The study included 100 patients with psychomotor agitation. Mean age was 36.2% and 54% were women. The most prevalent diagnoses were psychotic disorder (48%) and personality disorder (24%). Physical restraint was required in 39% of patients and 52% accepted oral treatment. Haloperidol was the most frequent oral treatment and olanzapine was the most frequent intramuscular treatment. Conclusions. A naturalistic approach provides data based on clinical reality in psychiatric emergency services. Strict research designs of clinical trials of efficacy imply sample selection biases and are generally distanced from the clinical reality. Atypical antipsychotics have become the first-line treatment in acute agitation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-244
JournalActas Espanolas de Psiquiatria
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2006


  • Acute agitation
  • Naturalistic study
  • Pharmacological treatment


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