Delirium: guidelines for general hospitals

J Psychosom Res. 2007 Mar;62(3):371-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2006.10.004.


Objective: Delirium is highly prevalent in general hospitals but remains underrecognized and undertreated despite its association with increased morbidity, mortality, and health services utilization. To enhance its management, we developed guidelines covering all aspects, from risk factor identification to preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic interventions in adult patients.

Methods: Guidelines, systematic reviews, randomized controlled trials (RCT), and cohort studies were systematically searched and evaluated. Based on a synthesis of retrieved high-quality documents, recommendation items were submitted to a multidisciplinary expert panel. Experts scored the appropriateness of recommendation items, using an evidence-based, explicit, multidisciplinary panel approach. Each recommendation was graded according to this process' results.

Results: Rated recommendations were mostly supported by a low level of evidence (1.3% RCT and systematic reviews, 14.3% nonrandomized trials vs. 84.4% observational studies or expert opinions). Nevertheless, 71.1% of recommendations were considered appropriate by the experts. Prevention of delirium and its nonpharmacological management should be fostered. Haloperidol remains the first-choice drug, whereas the role of atypical antipsychotics is still uncertain.

Conclusions: While many topics addressed in these guidelines have not yet been adequately studied, an explicit panel and evidence-based approach allowed the proposal of comprehensive recommendations for the prevention and management of delirium in general hospitals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Delirium* / diagnosis
  • Delirium* / etiology
  • Delirium* / therapy
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Hospitalization*
  • Hospitals, General
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Switzerland