We were excited to read the article by Michael Wilson et al1 in the March 2012 issue of theWestern Journal of Emergency Medicine regarding pharmacologic strategies for the management of agitated patients in the emergency setting. This article highlights several important points including the optimal management of stimulant-induced agitation and the feasibility of and reasons for differentiating acute alcohol intoxication from withdrawal, as optimal pharmacologic interventions for each might vary.
Excited (or agitated) delirium is characterized by agitation, aggression, acute distress and sudden death, often in the pre-hospital care setting. It is typically associated with the use of drugs that alter dopamine processing, hyperthermia, and, most notably, sometimes with death of the affected person in the custody of law enforcement. Subjects typically die from cardiopulmonary arrest, although the cause is debated. Unfortunately an adequate treatment plan has yet to be established, in part due to the fact that most patients die before hospital arrival. While there is still much to be discovered about the pathophysiology and treatment, it is hoped that this extensive review will provide both police and medical personnel with the information necessary to recognize and respond appropriately to excited delirium.