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Feasibility of melatonin for prevention of delirium in critically ill patients: a protocol for a multicentre, randomised, placebo-controlled study

31 Mar 2017


Delirium is highly prevalent in the intensive care unit (ICU) and is associated with adverse clinical outcomes. At this time, there is no drug that effectively prevents delirium in critically ill patients. Alterations in melatonin secretion and metabolism may contribute to the development of delirium. Administration of exogenous melatonin has been shown to prevent delirium in non-critically ill surgical and medical patients. This trial will demonstrate the feasibility of a planned multicentre, randomised controlled trial to test the hypothesis that melatonin can prevent delirium in critically ill patients compared with placebo.

Methods and analysis

This feasibility trial is a randomised, 3-arm, placebo-controlled study of melatonin (2 vs 0.5 mg vs placebo, administered for a maximum of 14 days) for the prevention of delirium in critically ill patients. A total of 69 patients aged 18 years and older with an expected ICU length of stay >48 hours will be recruited from 3 Canadian ICUs. The primary outcome is protocol adherence (ie, overall proportion of study drug doses administered in the prescribed administration window). Secondary outcomes include pharmacokinetic parameters, incidence, time to onset, duration of delirium, number of delirium-free days, adverse events, self-reported sleep quality, rest-activity cycles measured by wrist actigraphy, duration of mechanical ventilation, ICU length of stay and mortality. Data will be analysed using an intention-to-treat approach.

Ethics and dissemination

The study has been approved by Health Canada and the research ethics board of each study site. Trial results will be presented at international conferences and published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Trial registration number

NCT02615340: Pre-results.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open