Cognitive

Delirium

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Delirium

  1. Older, hospitalized adults: 30%
  2. Older surgical patients: 10-50% (varies based on Frailty and procedure complexity)
    1. Dyer (1995) Arch Intern Med 155:461-5 [PubMed]
  3. Intensive care unit: 70%
    1. McNicoll 2003 J Am Geriatr Soc 51:591-8 [PubMed]
  4. Emergency department: 10%
    1. Elie 2000 CMAJ 163:977-81 [PubMed]
  • Definition
  1. Acute Confusional State
  2. Develops over hours to days
    1. Contrast to Dementia with onset over months to years
  3. Waxes and wanes and is reversible
    1. Contrast to Dementia with a constant, progressive course (with minor fluctuations) and irreversible
    2. Lewy Body Dementia, as an exception, may present with fluctuations
  4. Inattention, disorganized thinking and altered level of consciosness
    1. Contrast to Dementia in which attention and long-term memory are typically preserved
  • Types
  • Psychomotor
  1. Hypoactive Delirium
    1. Most common in the elderly and most commonly missed
    2. Presents with at least 4 criteria
      1. Unawareness, decreased alertness or lethargy
      2. Sparse or slow speech, slow movements or staring
  2. Hyperactive Delirium
    1. Less common in the elderly
    2. Presents with at least 3 criteria
      1. Hypervigilance, restlessness or anxiousness
      2. Fast or loud speech or swearing
      3. Irritability, impatience, combativeness, Agitation, anger or uncooperative
      4. Singing, laughing, euphoria
      5. Fast motor responses or easy startling
      6. Distractability, Tangentiality, persistent thoughts or Nightmares
  3. Mixed Delirium
    1. Mixed hyperactive and hypoactive features
  • Risk Factors
  • Comorobid Conditions
  1. Age over 65 years (esp. male gender)
  2. Underlying Dementia
  3. Preexisting Major Depression
  4. Drug Abuse
  5. Chronic Pain
  6. Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Withdrawal
  7. Prior brain injury (vascular or Traumatic Injury)
  8. Hearing Loss
  9. Decreased Visual Acuity
  10. Insomnia or other sleep deprivation
  11. Polypharmacy
  12. Hospitalization or post-surgery
  13. Multiple comorbid conditions
  14. Poor nutritional status
  15. Hepatic failure
  16. Chronic Renal Failure
  17. Poor functional status
  18. Alcohol Abuse
  • Risk Factors
  • Precipitating Factors
  1. Infectious (precipitates 50% of Delirium cases in elderly)
    1. Precautions: Elderly with infectious causes
      1. Fever is absent in up to 20-30% of elderly patients with bacteremia
      2. Cough and fever are absent in 65% of elderly with Pneumonia
      3. Abdominal tenderness is absent in 65% of elderly with intra-abdominal infections
      4. Adedipe (2006) Emerg Med Clin North Am 24(2): 433-48 [PubMed]
    2. Pneumonia
    3. Urinary Tract Infection
    4. Intraabdominal infection
    5. Soft tissue infection (e.g. Pressure Ulcers)
    6. Meningitis or Encephalitis
  2. Cardiopulmonary
    1. Myocardial Infarction (esp. elderly women and diabetics)
    2. Congestive Heart Failure
    3. Dehydration, Hemorrhage or other shock state
    4. Hypoxia
    5. Hypercarbia
  3. Medications
    1. See Medications to Avoid in Older Adults
    2. See Medication Causes of Delirium in the Elderly
    3. See Polypharmacy
    4. Psychoactive medications, Anticholinergic Medications, Opioids or Benzodiazepines
    5. More than 3 medications added within 24 hours
  4. Endocrine and Metabolic
    1. Electrolyte abnormalities (e.g. Hypercalcemia)
    2. Acute Hepatic Failure (Hepatic Encephalopathy)
    3. Acute Renal Failure (Uremic encephalopathy)
    4. Hypoglycemia or Hyperglycemia
    5. Thiamine deficiency (e.g. Wernicke Encephalopathy)
    6. Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism
  5. Neuropsychiatric
    1. Cerebrovascular Accident
    2. Sleep deprivation
    3. Seizure
    4. CNS Hemorrhage (Subarachnoid Hemorrhage, Subdural Hematoma, Epidural Hematoma)
    5. CNS Neoplasm
  6. Iatrogenic
    1. Physical Restraints
    2. Medical procedures
    3. Indwelling Urinary Catheter
    4. Other tethers (e.g. telemetry monitoring wires)
    5. Intensive care setting
  7. Miscellaneous
    1. Hypothermia or hyperthermia (e.g. Heat Stroke)
    2. Toxin Induced Neurologic Changes
  • Causes
  • Life Threatening Delirium (Mnemonic - "WHHHHIMPS")
  1. Evaluate risk factors and causes as listed above
  2. Home Medications
    1. All bottles of currently taken medications should be brought to evaluation
  3. Substance use
    1. Alcohol Abuse
    2. Benzodiazepine use
  • Exam
  1. Review Vital Signs
    1. See Toxin Induced Vital Sign Changes
  2. Neurologic Exam
    1. Careful and complete Neurologic Exam
  3. Abdomen, Pelvis and Rectum
    1. Occult abdominal infection (e.g. Diverticulitis, Appendicitis)
    2. Perirectal Abscess
  4. Skin Exam
    1. Infected Decubitus Ulcer
  5. Focus areas for cause
    1. Hypoxia
    2. Dehydration
    3. Infection
    4. Uncontrolled pain
  • Signs
  1. Fluctuating levels of consciousness
    1. Inattention
      1. The cornerstone of Delirium
      2. Unable to count backwards from 20 or name months or weekdays backwards
    2. Perseveration
    3. Decreased alertness
    4. Disorientation
    5. Extremes of activity (Somnolence to Agitation)
  2. Disorganized Thought Processes
  3. Memory Impairment (especially short term)
  4. Perceptual disturbances
    1. Persecutory Delusions are common
    2. Visual Hallucinations rare except in organic cause
  5. Emotional lability
  6. Motor changes
    1. Myoclonus
    2. Asterixis
  • Labs
  • Initial
  1. See Altered Level of Consciousness (includes labs)
  2. All patients
    1. Comprehensive metabolic panel (electrolytes, Liver Function Tests, Renal Function tests)
    2. Complete Blood Count
    3. Urinalysis and Urine Culture
  3. Other labs to consider
    1. Thyroid Function Tests
    2. Vitamin B12
    3. Venous Blood Gas or Arterial Blood Gas
    4. Blood Alcohol level
    5. Urine Drug Screen
    6. Acetaminophen level
    7. Salicylate level
    8. Serum Ammonia
    9. Lactic Acid
    10. Medication levels (e.g. serum Lithium level or anticonvulsant level)
    11. C-Reactive Protein (CRP) or Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)
    12. Lumbar Puncture
  • Imaging
  1. Chest XRay
    1. Evaluate for occult Pneumonia
  2. CT Head Indications
    1. Focal neurologic deficit
    2. Altered Level of Consciousness
    3. Recent Head Trauma
    4. Fever with encephalopathy
  3. MRI Brain Indications
    1. Persistent Delirium without obvious cause
  • Diagnostics
  • Evaluation
  1. See Confusion Assessment Method
  2. See Altered Level of Consciousness (includes labs)
  3. See Richmond Agitation Sedation Scale (or RASS)
  4. Focus areas
    1. Key to evaluation is identifying underlying Delirium cause
    2. Carefully review medication list and possible ingestions
    3. Identify sources of infection including a full skin exam
    4. Identify focal neurologic deficits
    5. Identify subtle signs of Trauma
  • Evaluation
  • Urgent Indications
  1. Dramatic Vital Sign change (with associated signs or symptoms)
    1. Systolic Blood Pressure <90 mmHg
    2. Heart Rate <50/min or >120/min
    3. Respirations >30/min
    4. Temperature <96 F (36 C) or >101 F (38 C)
  2. Serious findings suggestive of underlying cause
    1. New focal deficits
    2. New respiratory distress (e.g. Hypoxia, Dyspnea)
    3. Cerebrovascular Accident
    4. Chest Pain
    5. Hematuria
  3. Serious psychiatric findings
    1. See Agitated Delirium
    2. Escalating aggressive behavior or threats of Violence
    3. Persistent danger to self or others
  • Diagnosis
  • Criteria (DSM-5 Criteria)
  1. Key criteria (all 5 must be present)
    1. Disturbed awareness and attention
      1. Altered Level of Consciousness
      2. Altered content (e.g. inattention, lost focus)
    2. Short duration of symptom onset (Hours to days)
      1. Rapid deterioration in all higher cortical functions
      2. Mental status fluctuates widely throughout the day
    3. Altered cognition or perception from baseline
      1. Decreased short-term memory, disturbed language or perception (Hallucinations, Delusions)
    4. History, exam or labs suggests medical cause, Intoxication or medication side effect
    5. Not due to pre-existing Dementia (or related fluctuations such as sun downing)
  2. Other factors may be associated
    1. Psychomotor behavioral disturbance (e.g. change in activity, sleep)
    2. Emotional disturbance (e.g. fear, depression, euphoria)
    3. Autonomic Instability (Abnormal Vital Signs)
  3. References
    1. (2013) DSM-5, APA
  • Management
  • General
  1. See Agitated Delirium
  2. See Agitation in Dementia
    1. Provides a similar approach as for Agitated Delirium (esp. non-medication management)
  3. Non-pharmacologic calming techniques are preferred
    1. Provide a quiet, non-activating environment
    2. Limit probes, beeping monitors, automatic Blood Pressure cuffs, bright lights
    3. Limit multiple intravenous lines, nasal oxygen, Bladder catheters
    4. Avoid Physical Restraints if at all possible
  4. Admission for Delirium is generally warranted
    1. Exception: Mild or resolved Delirium symptoms with reliable family and safe environment
      1. Discharge to home with close supervision and closer interval follow-up
    2. Consider geriatric unit admission if available for Delirium in elderly patients
  1. Precautions
    1. Antipsychotics are associated with increased mortality in the elderly
    2. Avoid in Parkinsonism due to high risk of Extrapyramidal Side Effects
    3. Use only short-term and only when non-pharmacologic measures fail
    4. Limit to monitored settings
    5. See each agent for contraindications and adverse effects before use
  2. Agents: First-Line
    1. Haloperidol 0.25 to 0.5 mg PO or IM every 4 hours (or 0.5 to 1.0 mg twice daily)
  3. Agents: Second-line
    1. Risperidone (Risperdal) 0.5 mg orally twice daily
    2. Olanzapine (Zyprexa) 2.5 to 5 mg orally twice daily
    3. Quetiapine (Seroquel) 25 mg orally twice daily
  1. Use with caution
    1. May paradoxically exacerbate Agitation
  2. Indications
    1. Parkinsonism (in which Antipsychotics are avoided if possible due to Extrapyramidal Side Effects)
    2. Drug Withdrawal or Alcohol Withdrawal
    3. Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome
  3. Preparations
    1. Lorazepam 0.5 to 1 mg orally or IV every 4 hours as needed
  • Course
  1. Reversible in over 80% of cases
  • Prevention
  1. Optimize hydration and nutrition
  2. Early mobilization of patients
  3. Avoid sedatives for sleep (see Sleep Hygiene)
  4. Reduce restraints and catheters
  5. Reorient patient frequently (involve family presence)
  6. Correct vision (glasses) and hearing (aids)
  7. Avoid psychoactive and Anticholinergic Medications
    1. See Medications to Avoid in Older Adults (STOPP, Beers' Criteria)
    2. Anticholinergic Medications
    3. Benzodiazepines
    4. Narcotics
  • Resources
  1. Delirium and acute problematic behavior in the long-term care setting
    1. http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=12379
  • References
  1. Ho Han (2013) Crit Dec Emerg Med 27(11): 11-23
  2. Khoujah and Magidson (2016) Crit Dec Emerg Med 30(10): 3-10 -Cole (2004) Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 12(1):7-21
  3. Inouye (2006) N Engl J Med 354(11): 1157-65 [PubMed]
  4. Kalish (2014) Am Fam Physician 90(3): 150-8 [PubMed]
  5. Miller (2008) Am Fam Physician 78(11): 1265-70 [PubMed]