Why Delirium Is Important

Delirium is common

Recent studies indicate that delirium is common for older persons in the hospital setting, with occurrence rates ranging from 29-64%.

Other high-risk settings including:

  • Postoperative: 12-51%
  • Intensive care: 19-82%
  • Nursing home: 20-56%
  • Palliative care: 47%
  • Stroke units: 27%
  • Emergency room: 8-17%

Delirium has serious complications

Delirium is associated with:

  • Increased morbidity and mortality
  • Functional and cognitive decline
  • Increased rates of dementia
  • Institutionalization
  • Increased healthcare utilization and costs
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Caregiver burden

Adverse outcomes with delirium

Delirium is expensive

Delirium costs Medicare about $164 billion (2011 US dollars) and more than $182 billion (2011 Euros in 18 European countries) per year, attributed to:

  • Hospital costs (> $11 billion/year US)
  • Post-hospital costs (>$153 billion/year US)
    • Rehospitalization
    • Emergency department visits
    • Institutionalization
    • Rehabilitation
    • Formal home care services
  • Caregiver burden when patients are able to return home
  • With the aging of world’s population, delirium is a problem that will continue to increase unless we can find effective means for its prevention and treatment

Delirium is often unrecognized

Previous studies have shown that in affected persons, the delirium is only recognized by:

  • About 1/3 of physicians
  • About 1/3 of nurses

Families can help by letting healthcare professionals know that their loved one is “not themselves”.

We can only manage delirium and decrease its complications if we can recognize it. Using a validated tool like the Confusion Assessment Method can help.

Delirium is preventable

Previous studies have shown that about 30-40% of delirium is preventable.

Multicomponent targeted interventions have been the most effective approaches and are broadly recommended in clinical guidelines.