This guideline applies to patients who present with extreme agitation or aggressive and violent behaviour. It is intended to provide protection for both patients and responders in circumstances where there is a high risk of violence. Chemical sedation is to be used when the patient is a risk to themselves or others and cannot be safely managed through other means. It should be applied judiciously and with sound clinical judgment.
Paramedic and EMR/FR safety is paramount at all times. Ensure that sufficient and necessary assistance is available prior to administration of sedation. Clear communication with all parties involved in restraining the patient will help reduce the risk of injuries.
Sedation may allow for a safer conveyance and provide an earlier opportunity for hospital staff to evaluate the patient. In communities where they are available, Advanced Care Paramedics should be considered as a resource to assist in the safe conveyance of these patients.
In communities where advanced care is not available, do not approach a violent patient: call for police to assist in restraining and securing the patient.
IM ketamine is the preferred drug in the management of severely agitated patients and in excited delirium syndrome (ExDS) because of its faster onset, shorter duration, superior efficacy, and fewer side effects compared to midazolam.
Do not titrate ketamine for ExDS.
Administer 5 mg/kg IM
Administration may require two or more IM injections
Maximum volume for Adult IM injections:
Deltoid 2.0 mL
Lateral thigh 4.0-5.0 mL
Larger Muscles (Gluteal) 5.0 mL
Additional administration of midazolam is usually not indicated but may be given if maintenance of sedation is required.
All sedated patients must be conveyed to an emergency department for observation.
Patients presenting with ExDS often experience a collection of symptoms:
Require emergent sedation
Include a history of drug use and/or psychiatric illness
Are males with a mean age of 35 years
Experience severe metabolic acidosis
Display shouting and paranoia/panic
Show violence towards others
Are insensitive to pain
Exhibit unexpected physical strength and endurance
Present with bizarre and/or aggressive behaviour
Display constant or near constant physical activity
Form unintelligible words
Rarely requires emergent sedation
Is characterized by an acute onset with changing severity of confusion, disturbances in attention, disorganized thinking, and/or a decreased level of consciousness
Has an onset over hours to days
Is often worse at night
Is accompanied by fluctuating emotions like sudden outbursts, anger, crying, or fear
Can co-exist with dementia
Does not require emergent sedation
Is characterized by a gradual and progressive decline in mental processing ability that affects short-term memory, language, communication, judgment, and reasoning
Has a gradual onset over months to years
Frequently presents with depression and apathy
First Responder (FR) Interventions
Await police restraint if indicated
Position the patient 3/4 prone if possible; be aware of the risks of positional asphyxia
Ensure effective respirations
Provide supplemental oxygen as required and if safe to do so