Managing Agitation Associated with Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder in the Emergency Setting

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Patient agitation represents a significant challenge in the emergency department (ED), a setting in which medical staff are working under pressure dealing with a diverse range of medical emergencies. The potential for escalation into aggressive behavior, putting patients, staff, and others at risk, makes it imperative to address agitated behavior rapidly and efficiently. Time constraints and limited access to specialist psychiatric support have in the past led to the strategy of “restrain and sedate,” which was believed to represent the optimal approach; however, it is increasingly recognized that more patient-centered approaches result in improved outcomes. The objective of this review is to raise awareness of best practices for the management of agitation in the ED and to consider the role of new pharmacologic interventions in this setting.

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