- Incidence and prevalence
- Clinical manifestations
- Diagnosis and evaluation
Delirium, a clinical syndrome characterized as an acute disorder of attention and cognitive function, is the most frequent complication of hospitalization for elders and a potentially devastating problem. Delirium often is unrecognized despite sensitive methods for its detection, and its complications may be preventable.
[...] Drug and alcohol withdrawal are important and often unsuspected causes of delirium in the elderly. Environmental factors, such as unfamiliar surroundings, sleep deprivation, deranged schedule, frequent room changes, sensory overload, or sensory deprivation, may aggravate delirium in the hospital. Psychosocial factors, such as depression, psychological stress, pain, or lack of social supports, also may precipitate delirium. Incidence and Prevalence In the elderly, the prevalence of delirium at hospital admission is 10 to 40%. Delirium develops anew in 25 to 56% of patients during hospitalization. [...]
[...] These two conditions are differentiated by the acute onset of symptoms in delirium (dementia is much more insidious) and the impaired attention and altered level of consciousness associated with delirium. The differential diagnosis also includes depression and nonorganic psychotic disorders. Although paranoia, hallucinations, and affective changes can occur with delirium, the key features of acute onset, inattention, altered level of consciousness, and global cognitive impairment assist in the recognition of delirium. At times, the differential diagnosis can be difficult, particularly with an uncooperative patient or when an accurate history is unavailable. [...]