Psychopharmacology & clinical issues in cl psychiatry


1. Avoid IM administration of medications in the anticoagulated patient (try IV Haloperidol if
2. Form 1 - While all agree that patients should be placed on a Form 1 if they are a threat to themselves,
others or are unable to care for themselves with resulting imminent and serious physical impairment of the person, there is controversy about what should be done when an incapable patient wants to leave hospital and they are in need of urgent medical treatment. At this time we are recommending that patients who are being detained for treatment be certified on a Form 1. Furthermore, some patients on existing Form 1’s may require completion of a Form 3 (i.e. transferred from inpatient psychiatry or QSMHC for an acute medical problem). 3. QTc intervals - Be cognizant of QTc intervals in patients receiving antipsychotic medications. Look
for concomitant agents that may be contributing to a prolonged QTc (e.g. amiodarone) or documentation of a congenital QTc prolongation syndrome (these patients should not receive antipsychotics except with the active involvement of cardiology). Assess and remind the referring team of the need to optimize other risk factors including low Mg or K levels for Torsades de Pointe ventricular arrhythmias that may occur in the context of QTc prolongation. Repeat the ECG and hold or avoid antipsychotic treatment in patients with increased QTc intervals (typically there is concern if there is an increase of > 25% in 24 hours while on an antipsychotic or a baseline QTc of >500 msec). The risk/benefit balance in patients whose agitation poses a danger to themselves or health care givers and who have a QTc in the range of 500-550 may in fact favour the cautious use of an antipsychotic. You should involve the referring team in a discussion of the risk/benefit ratio – most patients will be controlled with low doses of antipsychotic medications and not experience difficulties. 4. Follow-up patients treated with antipsychotics for delirium - If following up on a C-L patient that
either you or the primary C-L team has started on an antipsychotic, reassess ECG (QTc), if required constant observation should be considered, monitor EPS (much less frequent with IV haldol than with p.o) and note the number of prns given in a 24 hour period to facilitate decisions around adjustments to standing treatment doses. 5. Constant observation – A constant observer (“sitter”) should be included as part of the treatment
plan for: (1) delirious patients with safety concerns; (2) patients at high risk of suicide; (3) hypomanic/manic/psychotic patients who are disruptive to the functioning of the inpatient ward. This must be written in the orders and communicated to the treatment team. 6. Start low and go slow – Similar to the geriatric population, patients with co-morbid medical
conditions (including oncology patients) require lower starting dosages and slower titration of pharmacological treatments. 7. Micromedex - If you are unclear about drug interactions with chemotherapeutic or
immunosuppressive agents, there are a number of resources. You can check Micromedex through the
UHN intranet (it is available under “Clinical Tools” and “Virtual Library”), contact the unit
pharmacist (most have coverage until 9 or 10 pm on weekdays and on weekends) or the on-call
pharmacist at the respective site.
Dosing of antipsychotics - see treatment dosing of antipsychotic medications in delirium later in this
8. Parkinson’s Disease, Lewy Body & HIV dementia - The best antipsychotic to use in patients with
Parkinson’s disease, Lewy Body dementia or HIV dementia is quetiapine as it has the least likelihood of precipitating parkinsonian side-effects. 2. PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY IN THE MEDICALLY ILL

1. Common causes of delirium in cancer patients are: a. Medications: corticosteroids, opiates b. Hypercalcemia: bone mets c. Dehydration & electrolyte abnormalities d. Infection: immunocompromised patients, especially bone-marrow transplant patients e. CNS lesions: primary (i.e. CNS lymphoma) and secondary (lung, breast, melanoma a. Procarbazine (antineoplastic agent is a weak MAOI – consider risk with antidepressants and b. Dopamine agonists (Stemetil) c. If unsure, refer to a pharmacist, P450 tables, etc. 3. Avoid the use of physical restraints in this population. The use of restraints in oncology patients
with abnormal blood work places them at higher risk for life-threatening complications (i.e. bleeding, sequelae of seizures). a. Management of agitation in PMH patients can consist of: ii. Use of nursing or family for behavioural management of the patient (family can stay iii. Use of a sitter (constant observation) 4. Be aware of comorbid medical conditions (especially in this population) a. Check labs for etiology (see attached Table for causes of delirium) b. Medical co-morbidity requires lower starting dosages of medications and slower dose titration c. Cancer patients may be at increased risk of thromboembolic events, which can present as i. Check O2 stats and note any pleuritic chest pain 5. If there are serious concerns or questions regarding a PMH consult, Dr. Mary Elliott can be reached through locating at PMH (16-3155)

1. Avoid physical restraints in the cardiovascular surgery population, as there is the possibility of
disrupting the sternal sutures if the patient fights against the restraints. In the CVICU, if physical restraints are required to maintain the integrity of the lines, then chemical restraints should also be used liberally to ensure patient safety. Check with the patient’s nurse to determine if there are any concerns regarding the impact of medications on the patient’s ventilation - in general IV haldol or atypical antipsychotics are safe to use unless the patient has shown undue sedation that has negatively impacted on care (e.g. difficulty weaning from the ventilator because of sedation). In post-operative patients recovering on the post-operative floor it is helpful to use chemical restraints (typically haldol or haldol + lorazepam) and to get them in either through IV access, convincing the patient to take them or administering oral haldol mixed with orange juice. 2. Do not administer IM medications to patients on anticoagulants – there are a variety of experimental anticoagulants being used in the unit so ask the patient’s nurse about any medications that you are not familiar with. 3. Haldol dosage – the CVICU is quite comfortable with using IV haldol for post-operative delirium. They have protocols to initiate therapy. Psychiatry is usually only called if patients are not responsive to lower doses. Most patients respond to total daily doses in the range of 2.5 – 10 mg/day but there is a subset of patients who have quite high requirements in order to obtain behavioural control (up to 300 mg in 24 hours). QTc prolongation is monitored with ECGs as clinically indicated but the CVICU team are in general less concerned about this as they are monitoring the patients carefully and optimizing other risk factors for arrhythmias that could potentially develop secondary to QTc prolongation (eg. Mg, K+)
1. Medication side effects, particularly immunosuppressants (e.g. tacrolimus, cyclosporine, interferon) or steroids with acute psychiatric presentations including delirium, mania and depression Avoid benzodiazepines in liver failure or in the first few weeks following liver transplantation (“LOT” mnemonic for benzodiazepines bypassing first-pass metabolism – lorazepam, oxazepam, temazepam) Delirium post-liver transplant is common – can use IV haloperidol in patients with IV access or an oral atypical in patients without iv access (olanzapine is generally avoided because of its potential impact on glycemic control in this group who are receiving multiple medications that can alter glycemic control) Use short-acting benzodiazepines if possible in patients with renal failure Dose adjustments are required for some antidepressants in patients in renal failure (e.g. mirtazapine has approximately 50% reduced clearance in renal disease) Avoid lithium because of additive nephrotoxicity with many of the immunosuppressant medications If hypoxia is contributing to delirium, avoid benzodiazepines Can use atypical antipsychotics for anxiety with CO2 retention Delirium post-lung transplant is common – can use IV haloperidol in patients with IV access or an oral atypical in patients without iv access (olanzapine is generally avoided because of its potential impact on glycemic control in this group who are receiving multiple medications that can alter glycemic control) 3. Emergency evaluation of the suitability for transplant or suitability to act as a living donor – psychiatry may be asked for an opinion in patients who have end-stage liver disease because of a suicide attempt (most commonly acetaminophen) in terms of whether there are likely to be problems post-transplantation with compliance with lifelong, daily immunosuppressive therapy or whether there is a significant risk of further suicide attempts. Very occasionally there is a potential emergency transplant using a living donor and in these cases the donor needs to be assessed regarding their suitability. Please feel free to page Dr. Abbey for assistance through locating or ask locating to contact Dr. Esther Elliott if Dr. Abbey is out of town.
Appendix I: Suggested Dosing of Antipsychotic Medications
Table 1-7
Initial haloperidol doses for the treatment of delirium Initial adult dose of haloperidola,b (po,im, ivc,d)

Level of agitation Young or healthy Elderly or frail
a May repeat at regular intervals, but not before 30 minutes, until the patient is calmer. b Small doses of intravenous (iv) lorazepam (e.g., initially, 1mg of iv lorazepam over 1 minute, repeated again after 30 minutes if agitation persists) may be useful in patients who have not responded to haloperidol alone. d 10mg im or iv is equivalent to 5mg po. e Flush iv line with 2mg of normal saline before using iv form. Note: Clinically, IV haloperidol is used first line due to its reduced incidence of EPS and lack of impact on heart rate, blood pressure or respiratory rate. As above, avoid PO and IM haloperidol when possible.

Table 1-8.
Atypical antipsychotics for the treatment of mild to severe agitation in delirium

Initial dose (oral preparation)
As needed dose (prn)
0.25 – 0.5 mg every 4 hours; up to 4mg/day Increase in divided doses; up to 20mg/day (Zyprexa)a
a Available in an orally disintegrating tablet, Zydis
* Adapted from Wyszynski & Wyszynski. Manual of psychiatric care for the medically ill.
Selected etiologies of delirium*
Drug intoxication
Intracranial infection
Alcohol Meningitis Sedative-hypnotics Encephalitis Opiates Abscess Psychostimulants Neurosyphilis Hallucinogens Human Systemic infection
Drug withrdrawal
Alcohol Fungal
Sedative-hypnotics Protozoal
Metabolic and endocrine disturbance
Other metabolic disorders (e.g. porphyria, Traumatic
Other systemic etiologies
Hyperthermia: heatstroke, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, malignant hyperthermia Disseminated intravascular coagulation and other hypercoagulable states Neoplastic disease
Intracranical primary/metastasis/meningeal * Adapted from the American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychosomatic Medicine
Wernicke’s encephalopathy Infection
Withdrawal - alcohol & drugs
Acute metabolic
CNS pathology
Intracerebral hemorrhage
cute vascular
oxins or drugs
eavy metals

Analgesics Antiparkinsonian
Opiates (especially meperidine, pentazocine) Salicylates Bromocriptine Levodopa Antimicrobials Acyclovir, ganciclovir Aminoglycosides Beta-blockers Amphotericin B Antimalarials Clonidine Cephalosporins Digitalis Chloramphenicol Disopyramide Ethambutol Lidocaine Interferon Methyldopa Isoniazid Mexiletine Metronidazole Procainamide Rifampin Quinidine Sulfonamides Tocainide Vancomycin Sedative-hypnotics Barbiturates Anticholinergic drugs Benzodiazepines Antihistamines H1 (e.g., diphenhydramine) Antispasmodics Amphetamines Atropine and atropine-like drugs (e.g., scopolamine) Cocaine Benztropine Ephedrine, Biperiden Theophylline Phenothiazines (especially thioridazine) Antihistamines H2 (e.g., cimetidine, ranitidine) Anticonvulsants Baclofen Phenobarbital Bromides Phenytoin Chlorpropamide Valproic acid Aminoglutethimide Quinacrine Asparaginase Timolol 5-Fluorouracil Hexamethylenamine Methotrexate (intrathecal) Procarbazine Tamoxifen Vinblastine Vincristine


The following information is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. It should not be construed to indicate that the use of the drug is safe, appropriate, or effective for you. Consult your healthcare professional before taking this drug. Magnesium Sulfate Pronunciation: (mag-NEE-zee-um SUL-fat

Yes, the third term has now arrived; my how the year passes. Because of the large number of deadlines and that only one and a half weeks of this term make up April, we are going light on events. This also means having too many deadlines is no excuse!As you all know, your wonderful committee has put a lot of effort into making the society the best it can be this past year. In fact, this effort

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