October 31, 2023
Delirium is an acute state of brain failure that affects a person’s thinking and awareness of their surroundings, causing them to feel confused, said Dr. Grier Stewart, an internal medicine physician with University Medical Center.
“The differences be Delirium is an acute state of brain failure that affects a person’s thinking and awareness of their surroundings, causing them to feel confused, said Dr. Grier Stewart, an internal medicine physician with University Medical Center. tween these conditions are that one is considered long-term and the other temporary. Dementia happens gradually, becoming a permanent condition, whereas delirium affects the brain quickly and only lasts temporarily,” Stewart said.
Most elderly patients are diagnosed with delirium in the hospital and those at risk often have pre-existing cognitive impairments, chronic medical problems, a polypharmacy situation with medications that affect the brain, decreased vision and/or hearing, difficulties performing activities of daily living, a history of alcohol misuse and the effects of older age.
Severe illnesses such as stroke and infections can also trigger delirium along with surgeries, pain and dehydration.
Delirium is diagnosed with a clinical tool called the Confusion Assessment Method (CAM). CAM has four features that occur through diagnosis: an acute change in mental status with a fluctuating course, the inability to stay focused, disorganized thinking and an abnormal level of consciousness. To be diagnosed with delirium through the CAM method, the patient must have two of the four features.
“Controlling delirium through prevention is very important,” Stewart said. “We try to treat delirium the same way we prevent it by treating acute conditions aggressively, managing chronic conditions, giving patients familiar surroundings, utilizing sensory tools such as glasses and hearing aids, early mobilization after surgeries (with physical therapy and frequent walks), and making sure that the patient has good orientation and is aware of day and night schedules.”
For more information about delirium, visit the National Institute of Health’s website here.