Hospital emergency departments are set to become better equipped to deal with children and adolescents experiencing severe agitation, thanks to new research funded by the State Government and Telethon Trust.
The research, being led by Perth Children’s Hospital emergency doctor Professor Meredith Borland, will also improve the safety of young patients whose agitation is so severe that it can be managed only by sedation.
The current treatment for children experiencing such agitation – known as acute severe behavioural disturbance (ASBD) – is less than ideal due to a lack of data on safe and effective medications for treating the condition in young patients.
As a result, medical staff make decisions based on adult practice where the causes of agitation, and the efficacy and side effects of medication used to treat it, are considerably different.
Professor Borland’s project will seek to redress this imbalance so that children experiencing such distress – many of whom have neurodevelopmental problems such as ADHD or autism – can be treated with greater safety and efficacy.
Professor Borland will run a multi-centred randomised controlled trial of children and adolescents presenting to emergency departments across Australia with ASBD requiring sedation to determine:
- the most effective oral medication for managing ASBD in those patients who are willing and able to take medication by mouth.
- the most effective injectable medication for managing ASBD in those patients who are unwilling or unable to take medication by mouth.
The results of Professor Borland’s study will give emergency medical staff, for the first time, child and adolescent specific evidence to guide their treatment of ASBD in this vulnerable group of patients.
The Pharmacological Emergency management of Agitation in Children and Young people (PEAChy) trial is one of 16 research projects that will share in $3.9 million of research in the latest round of the WA Child Research Fund (WACRF) program.
WACRF is a collaboration of the Department of Health and Channel 7 Telethon Trust that provides funding for Western Australian research activities that focus on the health and wellbeing of children and/or adolescents.
Visit the Department of Health website for the full list of WACRF recipients.
As stated by Health Minister Roger Cook:
“ASBD is a growing problem in our emergency departments that is difficult, disruptive and potentially dangerous to patients, staff and others.
“When young patients are so agitated that talking or other non-pharmacological options of calming them fail, we need to know that any sedatives they are given are safe and effective.
“Despite rates of ASBD being higher in children than adults, the evidence for treating them has been lacking. That is why Professor Borland’s project is so important.
“Professor Borland’s project is an example of some of the highly innovative research that is underway in Western Australia.”