Sedation and Delirium in the Intensive Care Unit-A Practice-Based Approach

Irene M.J. Wong, Suhitharan Thangavelautham, Sean C.H. Loh, Shin Yi Ng, Brendan Murfin, Yahya Shehabi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Critically ill patients often require sedation for comfort and to facilitate therapeutic interventions. Sedation practice guidelines provide an evidence-based framework with recommendations that can help improve key sedation-related outcomes. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a narrative review of current guidelines and recent trials on sedation. RESULTS: From a practice perspective, current guidelines share many limitations including lack of consensus on the definition of light sedation, optimal frequency of sedation assessment, optimal timing for light sedation and consideration of combinations of sedatives. We proposed several strategies to address these limitations and improve outcomes: 1) early light sedation within the first 48 hours with time-weighted monitoring (overall time spent in light sedation in the first 48 hours-sedation intensity-has a dose-dependent relationship with mortality risk, delirium and time to extubation); 2) provision of analgesia with minimal or no sedation where possible; 3) a goal-directed and balanced multimodal approach that combines the benefits of different agents and minimise their side effects; 4) use of dexmedetomidine and atypical antipsychotics as a sedative-sparing strategy to reduce weaning-related agitation, shorten ventilation time and accelerate physical and cognitive rehabilitation; and 5) a bundled approach to sedation that provides a framework to improve relevant clinical outcomes. CONCLUSION: More effort is required to develop a practical, time-weighted sedation scoring system. Emphasis on a balanced, multimodal appraoch that targets light sedation from the early phase of acute critical illness is important to achieve optimal sedation, lower mortality, shorten time on ventilator and reduce delirium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-225
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of the Academy of Medicine Singapore
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

Cite this