The deadly delirium

We all see it happen – an elderly patient admitted to hospital with a seemingly benign medical condition, who develops a delirium at some point during their admission. After the underlying condition is treated, the delirium resolves and all is forgotten…or is it?


Witlox and colleagues had a look at mortality, institutionalisation and dementia after reviewing over 50 articles from the literatures. They found that after delirium, there was an increased risk of death (almost double – HR 1.95), a higher risk of institutionalisation (HR 2.41), and a higher risk of dementia (HR 12.52! – although a very wide confidence interval). 


Independent of baseline dementia, comorbid illness, or severity of illness, delirium in hospitals results in a long term poor outcome. Read more here at JAMA, and think carefully about it next time you see it on the wards. 


IMAGE: ell brown

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