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Expert Rev Neurother. 2017 Oct;17(10):1045-1053. doi: 10.1080/14737175.2017.1371012. Epub 2017 Sep 11.

Efficacy of antipsychotics for irritability and aggression in children: a meta-analysis.

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a Child Study Center , Yale University , New Haven , CT , USA.
b Department of Psychiatry , Yale University , New Haven , CT , USA.
c School of Nursing , Fairfield University School of Nursing , Fairfield , CT , USA.



Aggression and irritability in children occur across a range of diagnoses, and are associated with both economic cost and negative psychosocial outcomes. Antipsychotics are frequently prescribed in these cases.


A random effects meta-analysis of 14 random controlled trials was conducted. Overall effect sizes for antipsychotics for irritability and aggression were extracted. Subgroup analyses were conducted according to diagnostic indication, specific medication and degree of sedation. Meta-regression examined effects of antipsychotic dose.


Overall, antipsychotics were effective in reducing aggression and irritability (SMD = 0.74, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.57-0.92, z = 8.4, p < 0.0001). In stratified subgroup analysis, individual antipsychotic agents did not differ in efficacy (χ2 = 1.1, df = 3, p = 0.78). However, aripiprazole and risperidone demonstrated significant benefit over placebo. Antipsychotic efficacy did not differ significantly based on diagnostic indication (χ2 = 4.2, df = 4, p = 0.39). Meta-regression showed no overall dose effect.


Clinical data supports the efficacy of risperidone and aripiprazole for aggression and irritability across diagnoses, with insufficient data available for other agents. Available data does not support a difference in efficacy based on underlying diagnosis, choice of agent, or its degree of sedation.


Adolescents; aggression; antipsychotics; children; irritability

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