Delirium is sudden severe confusion and rapid changes in brain function that occur with physical or mental illness.
Acute confusional state; Acute brain syndrome
Delirium is most often caused by physical or mental illness and is usually temporary and reversible. Many disorders cause delirium, including conditions that deprive the brain of oxygen or other substances.
The goal of treatment is to control or reverse the cause of the symptoms. Treatment depends on the condition causing delirium. Diagnosis and care should take place in a pleasant, comfortable, nonthreatening, physically safe environment. The person may need to stay in the hospital for a short time.
Stopping or changing medications that worsen confusion, or that are not necessary, may improve mental function significantly. Medications that may worsen confusion include:
Analgesics, especially narcotics such as codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, or oxycodone
Treating the conditions that cause delirium can reduce its risk. In hospitalized patients, avoiding sedatives, staying still (immobilization), and bladder catheters, and using reality orientation programs will reduce the risk of delirium in those at high risk.
Inouye Sk. Delirium and other mental status problems in the older patient. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 26.
Greer N, Rossom R, Anderson P, et al. Delirium: Screening, Prevention, and Diagnosis; A Systematic Review of the Evidence [Internet].Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs (US); 2011 Sep.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurolosurgery, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.