Why Care About Delirium?

Delirium is common

Prevalent delirium in older ED patients: 8% to 17% overall; 40% of nursing home residents

Overall occurrence of delirium (prevalent+incident) in older patients admitted to medical or geriatric wards: 29% to 64%

Delirium is frequently missed

ED physicians miss delirium in 65% to 85% of cases.

  • If admitted, often missed by inpatient team
  • Up to 35% of patients with delirium are discharged

Delirium is associated with poor outcomes

Adverse outcomes associated with delirium.

  • Increased rate of inpatient falls
  • Greater health care utilization and expenditures
    • Longer inpatient LOS
    • Higher rates of discharge to post-acute care
    • Higher rates of hospital readmission
    • Impacts longer-term cognitive function (→ accelerated cognitive decline)

Delirium is deadly

Delirium in all acute care settings (ED, ICU, inpatient wards) is associated increased mortality

Delirium in older ED patients associated with higher mortality at:

  • 30 days (6% vs 1%)
  • 6 months (37% vs 14%)


Delirium is Preventable


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