The Importance Of Recognizing And Managing Delirium

2012-03-08 | |
Last updated: 2012-03-08

What Are Some Causes Of Delirium?

Delirium can be caused by many different health problems. As well, alcohol or drug abuse can cause the symptoms. Among those facing illness, medications, serious infections and pain can lead to the altered mental state. Important health problems involving the kidneys, lungs or heart may also lead to Delirium. The condition may also develop from other medical conditions as well.

In a hospital, Delirium can also arise based on the ways that the medical staff manages their patients. Lack of sleep from frequent interruptions, constant light exposure and excess noise can all contribute to a patient developing Delirium. Patient isolation for infection control can also lead to the condition. In fact, 2011 research from the University of Maryland found that isolated patients had a 75% higher chance of experiencing Delirium than other patients of similar health not kept in isolation.

All of these factors can come together when patients are sickest and under critical care in an Intensive Care Unit. In such situations, they may even develop a form of Delirium named “ICU Psychosis”.

Who Is Most At Risk For Developing Delirium?

With respect to who is at most risk for developing the condition, two factors are most important. The first is the degree to which the patient is ill. Patients with more severe illness are most likely to experience the problem.

The second factor is the age of the person. As we become seniors or elderly, the chances of developing Delirium during a hospital visit become more significant. In fact, according to research from Stanford Hospital & Clinics, 30% of hospitalized adults over 65 develop Delirium. Amongst those in this same age range who are in the ICU, almost 80% will experienced the altered mental state.

In addition to these more general risks, having specific conditions also affects the chances of experiencing Delirium. One such health problem is suffering a stroke. According to research from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, 30% of patients who have had a stroke will experience Delirium.

Another specific situation that often leads to Delirium is heart surgery in older adults. In research presented to the American Psychiatric Association in 2011, researchers found that among patients who have had such surgery, those over 70 had a 38% chance of developing Delirium and those over 80 had a 43% chance.

Despite these known risks, there is another risk factor associated with Delirium and that is the risk of not being diagnosed at all. According to 2010 research from Leeds University, between 10% and 58% of patients in hospitals experience Delirium yet according to recorded hospital statistics, less than 1% of patients are diagnosed with the condition. This means that the vast majority may receive no treatment for the condition.

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Category: General Health, Health Risks, Symptom Information

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