Pain, agitation, and delirium guidelines: Interprofessional perspectives to translate the evidence

Juliane Jablonski, Jaime Gray, Todd Miano, Gretchen Redline, Heather Teufel, Tara Collins, Jose Pascual-Lopez, Martha Sylvia, Niels D. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Societal guidelines exist for the management of pain, agitation, and delirium (PAD) in critically ill patients. This contemporary practice aims for a more awake and interactive patient. Institutions are challenged to translate the interrelated multivariable concepts of PAD into daily clinical practice and to demonstrate improvement in quality outcomes. An interdisciplinary goal-directed approach shows outcomes in high-acuity surgical critical care during the early stages of implementation. Methods: This study was a prospective preintervention and postintervention design. A formal PAD clinical practice guideline targeting standardized assessment and "light" levels of sedation was instituted. All mechanically ventilated patients admitted to a 24-bed surgical intensive care unit (ICU) at an academic medical center during a 6-month period were included (3 months before and 3 months after implementation). Sedation and agitation were measured using the Richmond Agitation Sedation Scale (RASS), pain measured using a Behavioral or Numeric Pain Scale (NPS/BPS), and delirium using the Confusion Assessment Method for the Intensive Care Unit. Total ventilator days with exposure to continuous opioid or sedative infusions and total ICU days where the patient received a physical activity session exercising out of bed were recorded. Results: There were 106 patients (54 at preintervention and 52 at postintervention). Mean percentage of RASS scores between 0 to -1 increased from 38% to 50% postintervention (P < .02). Mean percentage of NPS/BPS scores within the goal range (<5 for BPS and <3 for NPS) remained stable, 86% to 83% (P = .16). There was a decrease in use of continuous narcotic infusions for mechanically ventilated patients. This was reported as mean percentage of total ventilator days with a continuous opioid infusing: 65% before implementation versus 47% after implementation (P < .01). Mean percentage of ICU days with physical activity sessions increased from 24% to 41% (P < .001). Overall mean ventilator-free days and ICU length of stay were 5.4 to 4.5 days (P = .29) and 11.75 to 9.5 days (P = .20), respectively. Conclusion: Measureable patient outcomes are achievable in the early stages of PAD guideline initiatives and can inform future systems-level organizational change. Pain, agitation, and delirium assessment tools form the foundation for clinical implementation and evaluation. High-acuity surgical critical care patients can achieve more time at goal RASS, decreased ventilator days, and less exposure to continuous opioid infusions, all while maintaining stable analgesia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-173
Number of pages10
JournalDimensions of Critical Care Nursing
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017


  • Agitation
  • Delirium
  • Guidelines
  • PAD
  • Sedation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency
  • Critical Care


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