Reducing delirium after hip fracture: a randomized trial

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2001 May;49(5):516-22. doi: 10.1046/j.1532-5415.2001.49108.x.


Objectives: Delirium (or acute confusional state) affects 35% to 65% of patients after hip-fracture repair, and has been independently associated with poor functional recovery. We performed a randomized trial in an orthopedic surgery service at an academic hospital to determine whether proactive geriatrics consultation can reduce delirium after hip fracture.

Design: Prospective, randomized, blinded.

Setting: Inpatient academic tertiary medical center.

Participants: 126 consenting patients 65 and older (mean age 79 +/- 8 years, 79% women) admitted emergently for surgical repair of hip fracture.

Measurements: Detailed assessment through interviews with patients and designated proxies and review of medical records was performed at enrollment to ascertain prefracture status. Subjects were then randomized to proactive geriatrics consultation, which began preoperatively or within 24 hours of surgery, or "usual care." A geriatrician made daily visits for the duration of the hospitalization and made targeted recommendations based on a structured protocol. To ascertain study outcomes, all subjects underwent daily, blinded interviews for the duration of their hospitalization, including the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), the Delirium Symptom Interview (DSI), and the Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale (MDAS). Delirium was diagnosed using the Confusion Assessment Method (CAM) algorithm.

Results: The 62 patients randomized to geriatrics consultation were not significantly different (P>.1) from the 64 usual-care patients in terms of age, gender, prefracture dementia, comorbidity, type of hip fracture, or type of surgical repair. Sixty-one percent of geriatrics consultation patients were seen preoperatively and all were seen within 24 hours postoperatively. A mean of 10 recommendations were made throughout the duration of the hospitalization, with 77% adherence by the orthopedics team. Delirium occurred in 20 /62 (32%) intervention patients, versus 32 / 64 (50%) usual-care patients (P =.04), representing a relative risk of 0.64 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.37-0.98) for the consultation group. One case of delirium was prevented for every 5.6 patients in the geriatrics consultation group. There was an even greater reduction in cases of severe delirium, occurring in 7/ 60 (12%) of intervention patients and 18 / 62 (29%) of usual-care patients, with a relative risk of 0.40 (95% CI = 0.18-0.89). Despite this reduction in delirium, length of stay did not significantly differ between intervention and usual-care groups (median +/- interquartile range = 5 +/- 2 days in both groups), likely because protocols and pathways predetermined length of stay. In subgroup analyses, geriatrics consultation was most effective in reducing delirium in patients without prefracture dementia or activities of daily living (ADL) functional impairment.

Conclusions: Proactive geriatrics consultation was successfully implemented with good adherence after hip-fracture repair. Geriatrics consultation reduced delirium by over one-third, and reduced severe delirium by over one-half. Our trial provides strong preliminary evidence that proactive geriatrics consultation may play an important role in the acute hospital management of hip-fracture patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms
  • Delirium / classification
  • Delirium / diagnosis
  • Delirium / etiology*
  • Delirium / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Geriatrics / methods*
  • Hip Fractures / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Postoperative Care / methods*
  • Postoperative Complications / classification
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Preoperative Care / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Surveys and Questionnaires