The Dangers of Delirium

Delirium goes unrecognized in more than 60 percent of patients with condition: study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Delirium -- sudden, severe confusion and rapid changes in brain function that occur with physical or mental illness -- goes unrecognized in more than 60 percent of patients, according to a new study.

American Delirium Society (ADS) President James Rudolph, M.D., of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, said a system should be put in place to routinely monitor delirium in ICUs, hospitals, rehabilitation units and nursing homes.

There is no effective treatment for delirium, which threatens the independence and health of older adults.

Malaz Boustani, M.D., Regenstrief Institute investigator and IU School of Medicine associate professor of medicine, said delirium prolongs hospital stays, doubles death risk and increases susceptibility to Alzheimer's disease.

Individuals with dementia are more vulnerable to delirium, but the two are very distinct conditions.

For many older adults, a combination of medications for conditions including asthma, hypertension, allergies and cardiovascular disease appear to negatively affect the brain, putting this age group at particular risk. Younger and less vulnerable individuals may require a major health event, such as a stroke or heart attack, to trigger delirium.

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Review Date: 
February 25, 2011
Last Updated:
February 26, 2011