Health AGEnda

Advancing Delirium Science

Delirium is acute brain failure, characterized by disorientation and confusion. Occurring in approximately 25% of older hospitalized patients, up to 50% of older surgical patients, and up to 75% of older intensive care unit patients, delirium is all too common. When it occurs, delirium is bad for patients during the hospital stay and afterward. Patients who develop delirium have a death rate similar to heart attack, an increased hospital complication rate, and an increased rate of nursing home placement compared to patients who do not develop delirium.

An interdisciplinary group of healthcare professionals is trying to improve delirium for patients. With support from the John A. Hartford Foundation, in November 2011 they published “Advancing Delirium Science: Systems, Mechanisms, and Management” as a supplement to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Co-editor Marianne Shaughnessy, PhD, CRNP, stated, “The supplement was a mechanism to pull together experts from many disciplines with a common goal–advancing delirium science.”

The supplement focuses on three key areas with forward-thinking pieces written by leading experts from many countries. For example, one of the systems articles highlights the Johns Hopkins Delirium Consortium, sharing their model of interdisciplinary and interdepartmental collaboration across two hospitals. In the mechanisms section, Dr. Barbar Khan reviews the available biomarkers for delirium. Drs. Joseph Flaherty and Milta Little describe the Delirium Room model of care in the management section.

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