• cancer;
  • delirium;
  • pharmacotherapy;
  • risperidone;
  • treatment

Aim:  Antipsychotic medications have frequently been regarded as the treatment of choice for delirium. This study examined the clinical efficacy of risperidone for the treatment of delirium in cancer patients, combined with a repeated assessment of underlying medical severity levels.

Methods:  The study included consecutive referrals of 29 delirious cancer patients (mean age, 68.9 ± 12.5 years; male, 69%) to the psychiatric consultation service. Risperidone was given orally once per day (mean dosage, 1.4 ± 1.3 mg/day). Study participants were assessed using quantitative standardized scales of cognitive function, delirium, and physical impairment at baseline and at the end of the study (seventh day).

Results:  Risperidone with routine clinical management was effective for the treatment of delirium: 48% of the patients responded and 38% achieved remission. The reduction of delirium severity occurred in 79% of the patients. Changes in delirium severity were unrelated to age, gender, general cognitive dysfunction, or to severity of attendant medical conditions. In addition to changes in agitation and perceptional disturbances, risperidone was also effective for other specific delirium symptoms.

Conclusions:  Risperidone with routine clinical management is effective in the treatment of delirium in advanced cancer patients, independent of changes in the underlying medical condition.