[Summary of the Dutch College of General Practitioners' practice guideline 'Delirium in elderly people']

Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2003 May 17;147(20):965-9.
[Article in Dutch]


The Dutch College of General Practitioners' practice guideline 'Delirium in elderly people' contains a number of key messages. These are: Consider the diagnosis of delirium in the case of changes in consciousness and attention, incoherent thinking or disorientation, if this picture developed over a short period of time (hours to days) and if the symptoms vary over the 24-hour period. Delirium is provoked by one or more somatic disorders; investigation and treatment of these disorders is an essential part of managing delirium. It is often difficult to distinguish delirium from dementia and depression. Although delirium is generally reversible, the prognosis in the elderly is relatively poor. If delirium is accompanied by fear or agitation, haloperidol is the drug of first choice, but in delirium induced by alcohol withdrawal or benzodiazepine withdrawal, a short-acting benzodiazepine such as lorazepam or oxazepam is indicated. Part of the treatment, but also prevention of delirium is focused on inducing factors that can provoke a delirium, such as medication with an anticholinergic effect, polypharmacy, inadequate nutrition, dehydration, sleep deprivation, immobility and sensory handicaps.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Delirium / diagnosis*
  • Delirium / drug therapy
  • Delirium / etiology
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Geriatrics
  • Humans
  • Netherlands
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Prognosis
  • Societies, Medical


  • Antipsychotic Agents