Agitation and Restraint in a Pediatric Psychiatric Emergency Program: Clinical Characteristics and Diagnostic Correlates
OBJECTIVES/OBJECTIVE:Agitation and restraint among pediatric psychiatric patients are a frequent, yet little studied, source of morbidity and, rarely, mortality in the emergency department (ED). This study examined agitation and restraint among youth patients in a specialized pediatric psychiatric ED, considering clinical and sociodemographic characteristics of those who required restraint to determine the clinical correlates of agitation and restraint in this population. METHODS:This descriptive study was a 6-year retrospective chart review of all patients restrained for acute agitation. Demographics, clinical characteristics, diagnoses, and reasons for restraint were collected. Relationships between sociodemographic and clinical variables to types of restraints used were examined, along with change over the study period in rate of and mean time in restraint. RESULTS:The average restraint rate was 1.94%, which remained fairly consistent throughout study period, although average time in restraint decreased significantly. Restraints were more common in males. Adolescents were overrepresented in the ED population, and after controlling for this, restraint rates were similar in adolescents and younger children. Physical aggression was the most frequent precipitant, although among adolescents verbal aggression was also a precipitant (more so than in younger children). Disruptive behavior disorder diagnoses were most frequently associated with restraint. CONCLUSIONS:A lower rate of restraint is reported here than has been seen in programs where youths are treated in medical or adult psychiatric EDs. Hospitals without specialized pediatric psychiatric emergency programs should invest in staff training in deescalation techniques and in access to pediatric psychiatric treatment. The finding that, of youth restrained, a significant proportion were under 12 years old and/or carried diagnoses not typically associated with aggressive behavior, indicates that crisis prevention, management, and treatment should include younger populations and diverse diagnostic groups, rather than focusing narrowly on older patients with psychotic or substance use disorders.