To systematically review aggression in an inpatient Huntington's cohort examining rates, types and antecedents.
Although the prevalence of aggression in Huntington's disease is high, research into this problematic behaviour has been limited. Few studies have investigated the nature of aggressive behaviour in Huntington's disease or antecedents that contribute to its occurrence.
A systematic, double-coded, electronic medical file audit.
The electronic hospital medical records of 10 people with Huntington's disease admitted to a brain disorders unit were audited for a 90-day period using the Overt Aggression Scale-Modified for Neurorehabilitation framework, yielding 900 days of clinical data.
Nine of 10 clients exhibited aggression during the audit period. Both verbal (37·1%) aggression and physical aggression were common (33·8%), along with episodes of mixed verbal and physical aggression (15·2%), while aggression to objects/furniture was less prevalent (5·5%). The most common antecedent was physical guidance with personal care, far exceeding any other documented antecedents, and acting as the most common trigger for four of the nine clients who exhibited aggression. For the remaining five clients, there was intraindividual heterogeneity in susceptibility to specific antecedents.
In Huntington's sufferers at mid- to late stages following disease onset, particular care should be made with personal care assistance due to the propensity for these procedures to elicit an episode of aggression. However, given the degree of intraindividual heterogeneity in susceptibility to specific antecedents observed in the present study, individualised behaviour support plans and sensory modulation interventions may be the most useful in identifying triggers and managing aggressive episodes.
Relevance to clinical practice
Rates of aggression in Huntington's disease inpatients can be high. Knowledge of potential triggers, such as personal care, is important for nursing and care staff, so that attempts can be made to minimise distress for patients and maximise the personal safety of care staff.