Learn About Delirium

What is the definition of Delirium?

Delirium is sudden severe confusion due to rapid changes in brain function that occur with physical or mental illness.

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What are the alternative names for Delirium?

Acute confusional state; Acute brain syndrome

What are the causes of Delirium?

Delirium is most often caused by physical or mental illness and is usually temporary and reversible. Many disorders cause delirium. Often, these do not allow the brain to get oxygen or other substances. They may also cause dangerous chemicals (toxins) to build up in the brain. Delirium is common in the intensive care unit (ICU), especially in older adults.

Causes include:

  • Alcohol or medicine overdose or withdrawal
  • Drug use or overdose, including being sedated in the ICU
  • Electrolyte or other body chemical disturbances
  • Infections such as urinary tract infections or pneumonia
  • Severe lack of sleep
  • Poisons
  • General anesthesia and surgery
What are the symptoms of Delirium?

Delirium involves a quick change between mental states (for example, from lethargy to agitation and back to lethargy).

Symptoms include:

  • Changes in alertness (usually more alert in the morning, less alert at night)
  • Changes in feeling (sensation) and perception
  • Changes in level of consciousness or awareness
  • Changes in movement (for example, may be slow moving or hyperactive)
  • Changes in sleep patterns, drowsiness
  • Confusion (disorientation) about time or place
  • Decrease in short-term memory and recall
  • Disorganized thinking, such as talking in a way that doesn't make sense
  • Emotional or personality changes, such as anger, agitation, depression, irritability, and overly happy
  • Incontinence
  • Movements triggered by changes in the nervous system
  • Problem concentrating
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What are the current treatments for Delirium?

The goal of treatment is to control or reverse the cause of the symptoms. Treatment depends on the condition causing delirium. The person may need to stay in the hospital for a short time.

Stopping or changing medicines that worsen confusion, or that are not necessary, may improve mental function.

Disorders that contribute to confusion should be treated. These may include:

  • Anemia
  • Decreased oxygen (hypoxia)
  • Heart failure
  • High carbon dioxide levels (hypercapnia)
  • Infections
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Nutritional disorders
  • Psychiatric conditions (such as depression or psychosis)
  • Thyroid disorders

Treating medical and mental disorders often greatly improves mental function.

Medicines may be needed to control aggressive or agitated behaviors. These are usually started at very low dosages and adjusted as needed.

Some people with delirium may benefit from hearing aids, glasses, or cataract surgery.

Other treatments that may be helpful:

  • Behavior modification to control unacceptable or dangerous behaviors
  • Reality orientation to reduce disorientation
Who are the top Delirium Local Doctors?
Elite
Highly rated in
10
conditions

Humboldt Universität Zu Berlin And Berlin Institute Of Health

Berlin, BE, DE 

Claudia Spies is in Berlin, Germany. Spies is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Delirium. She is also highly rated in 10 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Delirium, Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis, Non-Langerhans-Cell Histiocytosis, and Histiocytosis.

Elite
Highly rated in
3
conditions

University Of Technology Sydney

Ultimo, NSW, AU 

Meera Agar is in Ultimo, Australia. Agar is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Delirium. She is also highly rated in 3 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Delirium, Acute Pain, Dementia, and Metastatic Brain Tumor.

 
 
 
 
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Elite
Highly rated in
7
conditions
Neurology

Beth Israel Lahey Health

Beth Israel Deaconess Healthcare - Chestnut Hill

200 Boylston St 
Newton, MA 2467

Tamara Fong is a Neurologist in Newton, Massachusetts. Dr. Fong has been practicing medicine for over 24 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Delirium. She is also highly rated in 7 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Delirium, Dementia, Alzheimer's Disease, and Cerebellar Degeneration. She is licensed to treat patients in Massachusetts. Dr. Fong is currently accepting new patients.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Delirium?

Acute conditions that cause delirium may occur with long-term (chronic) disorders that cause dementia. Acute brain syndromes may be reversible by treating the cause.

Delirium often lasts about 1 week. It may take several weeks for mental function to return to normal. Full recovery is common, but depends on the underlying cause of the delirium.

What are the possible complications of Delirium?

Problems that may result from delirium include:

  • Loss of ability to function or care for self
  • Loss of ability to interact
  • Progression to stupor or coma
  • Side effects of medicines used to treat the disorder
When should I contact a medical professional for Delirium?

Contact your health care provider if there is a rapid change in mental status.

How do I prevent Delirium?

Treating the conditions that cause delirium can reduce its risk. In hospitalized people, avoiding or using a low dosage of sedatives, prompt treatment of metabolic disorders and infections, and using reality orientation programs will reduce the risk of delirium in those at high risk.

Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system
Brain
What are the latest Delirium Clinical Trials?
Does Mobilisation in the Evening Reduce the Incidence of Delirium in Patients Admitted to Intensive Care: a Mixed-methods, Randomised Controlled Feasibility Study
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Effects of the Orexin Receptor Antagonist Suvorexant on Sleep Architecture and Delirium in the Intensive Care Unit: A Multi-Centric Randomized Controlled Trial
What are the Latest Advances for Delirium?
High-dose versus standard-dose vitamin D supplementation in older adults with COVID-19 (COVIT-TRIAL): A multicenter, open-label, randomized controlled superiority trial.
The Effects of Dexmedetomidine on Perioperative Neurocognitive Outcomes After Cardiac Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.
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Effects of non-pharmacological interventions for preventing delirium in general ward inpatients: A systematic review & meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date : November 09, 2021
Published By : Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper Medical School at Rowan University, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Guthrie PF, Rayborn S, Butcher HK. Evidence-based practice guideline: delirium. J Gerontol Nurs. 2018;44(2):14-24. PMID: 29378075 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29378075/.

Inouye SK. Delirium in the older patient. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 25.

Mendez MF, Yerstein O. Delirium. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley's and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 4.