Outcomes of Prehospital Chemical Sedation With Ketamine Versus Haloperidol and Benzodiazepine or Physical Restraint Only

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Emergency Medicine; School of Medicine; Department of Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Anesthesia and Analgesia | Emergency Medicine


OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study is to describe complications and outcomes of prehospital ketamine use for agitation as compared to other methods of physical or chemical restraint such as haloperidol plus benzodiazepine or physical restraint only.

METHODS: We conducted a single-center retrospective review of patient encounters in which restraint was administered in the prehospital setting. At the beginning of our study window, only physical restraint was available to paramedics managing agitated patients but subsequently, haloperidol and benzodiazepines were introduced, followed by ketamine 2 years later. By comparing patients before and after each transition, we divided subjects into 3 cohorts based on restraint type: physical restraint, haloperidol plus benzodiazepine, and ketamine. Demographic data were collected, and outcome measures included intubation rate, need for additional physical or chemical restraint, emergency department (ED) length of stay, need for hospital admission, and employee injury.

RESULTS: Of 214 subjects included in the study, 95 patients were administered ketamine, 68 received haloperidol and benzodiazepine, and 51 were physically restrained. Eleven of the patients (11.6%) who received ketamine were intubated. Compared to patients who received haloperidol plus benzodiazepine, patients who received ketamine were more likely to be intubated (odds ratio [OR] = 8.77, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.10-69.68) and were more likely to require additional chemical restraint when compared to haloperidol/benzodiazepine or physical restraint only (OR =2.94, 95% CI, 1.49-5.80, and OR =2.15, 95% CI, 1.07-4.31, respectively). There were no differences between the 2 chemical sedation groups in terms of ED length of stay or hospital admission rate.

CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates a lower intubation rate in patients administered ketamine than prior literature in association with a lower weight-based dosing regimen. Ketamine use was correlated with a higher frequency of intubation and a greater need for additional chemical restraint when compared with other restraint modalities, though exogenous factors such as provider preference may have impacted this result. There was no difference in ED length of stay or admission rate between the ketamine and haloperidol plus benzodiazepine groups. Further prospective study is needed to determine whether there is a subset of patients for whom ketamine would be beneficial compared to other therapies.


agitated delirium, ketamine, restraint, sedation

DOI of Published Version



Prehosp Emerg Care. 2018 Aug 27:1-9. doi: 10.1080/10903127.2018.1501445. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Prehospital emergency care : official journal of the National Association of EMS Physicians and the National Association of State EMS Directors

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID