Characterizing the role of haloperidol for analgesia in the emergency department

Matt Cowling, Stephen Covington, Christian Roehmer, Paul Musey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to characterize emergency department (ED) physicians’ beliefs and current practices regarding the use of haloperidol for the management of acute and acute on chronic pain. Methods: A survey regarding haloperidol use was distributed by email to attending physicians, resident physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants at emergency medicine departments in the Indiana University Health System and at St Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. Results: Of the 129 responses received, the majority (89.1%) of providers had used haloperidol for control of pain in the ED. The most common reason that respondents used haloperidol to treat pain was that they did not want to use an opioid or other agent (91.3%). The majority of providers (73.9%) believed that haloperidol was effective because there is a psychiatric component to pain, while over half of respondents (58.3%) chose haloperidol as they believed it to have analgesic properties. When haloperidol was used as a first line medication, providers felt that it was effective in controlling pain about 69.0% of the time without the need for further medication. The most common presentations for use were for unspecified abdominal pain, headache, and gastroparesis. Conclusion: ED providers reported using haloperidol most often as a second line treatment to manage both acute and acute on chronic pain. When haloperidol was used as a first line agent, providers claimed that additional medicines were not usually required. Haloperidol may provide an effective alternative to opioids in treatment of acute pain and acute exacerbations of chronic pain in the ED.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-146
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pain Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Emergency department
  • Haloperidol
  • Pain
  • Pain management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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