Researchers said that older hospital patients with delirium run a much higher risk of death than those without the condition. Researchers suggested there's a need for research to identify what changes in treatment can be made and to investigate interventions that can be made after discharge to reduce the risk of death.
The study covered 361 patients aged 65 or older, of whom 243 had prevalent or occasional delirium - described as possible hallucinations, disorientation, illusions, anxiety and confusion. Studying the patients for a year found that those with delirium had a risk of death that was slightly more than double those without it.
The older patients in hospitals frequently become delirious, leading to longer hospital stays and other health problems, yet the condition is often not diagnosed during hospital stays. The results of this study have implications for the care of older medical inpatients and for research in such patients.
First, delirium should be considered a significant, serious problem in its own right and as a marker of serious risk of mortality. The detection of delirium should prompt efforts to identify and treat underlying medical problems.