Preventing Postoperative Delirium After Major Noncardiac Thoracic Surgery—A Randomized Clinical Trial

Babar A. Khan, Anthony J. Perkins, Noll L. Campbell, Sujuan Gao, Sikandar H. Khan, Sophia Wang, Mikita Fuchita, Daniel J. Weber, Ben L. Zarzaur, Malaz A. Boustani, Kenneth Kesler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: To assess the efficacy of haloperidol in reducing postoperative delirium in individuals undergoing thoracic surgery. Design: Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Setting: Surgical intensive care unit (ICU) of tertiary care center. Participants: Individuals undergoing thoracic surgery (N=135). Intervention: Low-dose intravenous haloperidol (0.5 mg three times daily for a total of 11 doses) administered postoperatively. Measurements: The primary outcome was delirium incidence during hospitalization. Secondary outcomes were time to delirium, delirium duration, delirium severity, and ICU and hospital length of stay. Delirium was assessed using the Confusion Assessment Method for the ICU and delirium severity using the Delirium Rating Scale-Revised. Results: Sixty-eight participants were randomized to receive haloperidol and 67 placebo. No significant differences were observed between those receiving haloperidol and those receiving placebo in incident delirium (n=15 (22.1%) vs n=19 (28.4%); p =.43), time to delirium (p =.43), delirium duration (median 1 day, interquartile range (IQR) 1-2 days vs median 1 day, IQR 1-2 days; p =.71), delirium severity, ICU length of stay (median 2.2 days, IQR 1–3.3 days vs median 2.3 days, IQR 1-4 days; p =.29), or hospital length of stay (median 10 days, IQR 8–11.5 days vs median 10 days, IQR 8-12 days; p =.41). In the esophagectomy subgroup (n = 84), the haloperidol group was less likely to experience incident delirium (n=10 (23.8%) vs n=17 (40.5%); p =.16). There were no differences in time to delirium (p =.14), delirium duration (median 1 day, IQR 1-2 days vs median 1 day, IQR 1-2 days; p =.71), delirium severity, or hospital length of stay (median 11 days, IQR 10-12 days vs median days 11, IQR 10-15 days; p =.26). ICU length of stay was significantly shorter in the haloperidol group (median 2.8 days, IQR 1.1–3.8 days vs median 3.1 days, IQR 2.1–5.1 days; p =.03). Safety events were comparable between the groups. Conclusion: Low-dose postoperative haloperidol did not reduce delirium in individuals undergoing thoracic surgery but may be efficacious in those undergoing esophagectomy. J Am Geriatr Soc 66:2289–2297, 2018.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2289-2297
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018



  • ICU
  • cognition
  • delirium
  • esophagectomy
  • haloperidol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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