Can delirium be separated from dementia?

Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. Sep-Oct 1999;10(5):386-8. doi: 10.1159/000017175.


This presentation reviews the nosological status of delirium and dementia as a prelude to a discussion of how to distinguish them, or even if they are distinguishable. It argues that committee (ICD, DSM) classification systems fossilise the meaning of the syndromes, and thereafter have a baleful effect on research. The distinction between dementia and delirium is a case in point, and it can be argued that this is much less clear than we thought. It is suggested that validation of syndromes as prognostic tools is a logical way out of the nosological swamp into which delirium and dementia research is sinking, and that cognitive improvement should be the key distinction.

MeSH terms

  • Delirium / classification*
  • Delirium / diagnosis
  • Dementia / classification*
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Terminology as Topic*