Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

Ketamine For Anger Management

 

I have been meaning to write about this ketamine study, but Greg Friese wrote about one of the comments on a review of the paper –
 

Most intriguing is this reader comment “talk to your damn patients calm them down and you can avoid this knee jerk, sedate first ask questions later whilst risking side effects, response ,that seems to be coming the norm” which seems disconnected to the actual syndrome of ExDS and the danger to medics, cops, and the patient when a patient’s behavior is out of control.[1]

 

Intriguing?
 

Tasmanian Devil - from outbackcooking dot blogspot dot com 1
 

The review was by Dr. Ryan Radecki of Emergency Medicine Literature of Note (the best quick and to the point reviews of research I know of on line). Did Dr. Radecki even suggest that we should avoid attempts at talking the patient down?
 

From the land of “we still have droperidol”, this case series details the use of ketamine as “rescue” treatment for “agitated delirium”. In lay terms, the situation they’re describing is the utterly bonkers patient being physically restrained by law enforcement for whom nothing else has worked.[2]

 

No.

Did the authors of the original paper suggest that we should avoid attempts at talking the patient down (verbal de-escalation)?
 

The sedation of agitated and aggressive patients in the emergency department (ED) and other acute care areas is a major problem for health care workers. Patients with acute behavioral disturbance may respond to verbal de-escalation or oral sedation, but a substantial proportion of this group requires parenteral sedation and mechanical restraint.1, 2, 3, 4, 5 [3]

 

No.

What about the studies cited above?

This is from one –
 

Combined pharmacological sedation and physical restraint were required on 66 (46%) occasions, pharmacological sedation alone on 20 (14%), physical restraint alone on 14 (10%) and neither on 43 (30%) occasions.[4]

 

30% of patients did not require physical and/or chemical restraint.

What does require mean?

How many patients can be managed by just talking them down? Should we avoid preparation for chemical and physical restraints, just because we are trying to talk the patient down?
 

There is indirect evidence from pharmacologic studies of agitation that verbal techniques can be successful in a substantial percentage of patients. In a recent study, patients were excluded from a clinical trial of droperidol if they were successfully managed with verbal de-escalation; however, the specific verbal de-escalation techniques were not identified or studied.12 [5]

 

Research on chemical management of excited delirium should not be interpreted as discouraging us from talking patients down.
 

Clinicians who work in acute care settings must be good multitaskers and tolerate rapidly changing patient priorities. In this environment, tolerating and even enjoying dealing with agitated patients takes a certain temperament, and all clinicians are encouraged to assess their temperament for this work.[5]

 

There is a lot of good information in the article, but approaching every patient with the expectation that verbal de-escalation will work is unrealistic. A lack of preparation sets everyone up for a worse outcome in the cases where verbal de-escalation does not work. Injuries and death become more likely, when we are not prepared to switch to sedation and have only physical restraint to respond to rapidly changing patient priorities.

We need to be able to adapt to the agitated patient. Verbal de-escalation and excited delirium do not get enough attention. This paper does not address the use of verbal de-escalation, because the enrolled patients had to fail to respond to other chemical sedation first. The patients who failed chemical sedation are also the ones who failed to respond to whatever attempts at verbal de-escalation were used.
 

Read the full paper on verbal de-escalation.

Footnotes:

[1] Sunday morning reader – coffee, ketamine, and EMS news
Everyday EMS Tips
by Greg Friese
March 6, 2016
Article

[2] Ketamine For Anger Management
Emergency Medicine Literature of Note
Friday, March 4, 2016
Posted by Ryan Radecki
Article

[3] Ketamine as Rescue Treatment for Difficult-to-Sedate Severe Acute Behavioral Disturbance in the Emergency Department.
Isbister GK, Calver LA, Downes MA, Page CB.
Ann Emerg Med. 2016 Feb 10. pii: S0196-0644(15)01562-0. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2015.11.028. [Epub ahead of print]
PMID: 26899459

[4] Structured team approach to the agitated patient in the emergency department.
Downes MA, Healy P, Page CB, Bryant JL, Isbister GK.
Emerg Med Australas. 2009 Jun;21(3):196-202. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-6723.2009.01182.x.
PMID: 19527279

[5] Verbal De-escalation of the Agitated Patient: Consensus Statement of the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry Project BETA De-escalation Workgroup.
Richmond JS, Berlin JS, Fishkind AB, Holloman GH Jr, Zeller SL, Wilson MP, Rifai MA, Ng AT.
West J Emerg Med. 2012 Feb;13(1):17-25. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2011.9.6864.
PMID: 22461917

Free Full Text from PubMed Central.

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Comments

  1. I went to the ER for a cut lip, seriously. I was angry that I was surrounded by police, who kept yelling. I fell, hadn’t done anything wrong, didnt break the law, just was scared and confused.

    I was told I would be given ketamine. For a cut lip? I refused, was clear why, didnt yell, scream or threaten anyone..

    So i was 5150’d, then given it against my will. 36 hours later in a nightmare I saw a face. She said “well, I guess you had a bad drug reaction.”

    I can’t complain about police because they filed no charges and they mad me angry so hospital staff felt fully justified in giving me an animal tranquilizer. Lie all you want, that’s what it is and everyone knows it?

    So choices are removed now. If you decline a drug, you’re declared ceazy, then given it anyway. Patient rights? Whatever the hell ever happened to them?

    • What you write raises a lot of questions.

      How did you cut your lip?

      Why were you in the custody of the police?

      What did the nurses and/or doctor say when you stated that you did not want ketamine?

      Was the 5150 by the police or by the doctor?

      What was the reason given for the 5150?

      There are many more questions, but that is a start.

      .

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