Independent vascular and cognitive risk factors for postoperative delirium

Am J Med. 2007 Sep;120(9):807-13. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2007.02.026.


Background: Delirium is a common, morbid, and costly syndrome that occurs frequently after surgery for atherosclerosis. We hypothesized that vascular risk factors and mildly impaired cognitive performance would independently predispose nondemented patients to develop delirium after noncardiac surgery.

Methods: The International Study of Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction recruited patients undergoing noncardiac surgery from 8 countries. Subjects provided detailed medical history and underwent preoperative testing of multiple cognitive domains with a neuropsychologic battery. Postoperatively, subjects (n=1161) were assessed daily for delirium.

Results: Ninety-nine subjects (8%) developed delirium. In bivariable analysis, several vascular risk factors were significantly associated with the likelihood of delirium, including male sex, exposure to tobacco, previous myocardial infarction, and vascular surgery. After adjustment for age, tobacco exposure and vascular surgery were independent vascular risk factors for delirium (adjusted relative risk [RR] 3.2, 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.1-4.9). In addition, mildly impaired cognitive performance, defined as performance 1.5 standard deviation below the mean on either of 2 neuropsychologic tests, was independently associated with delirium (adjusted RR 2.2, 95% CI, 1.4-3.6). Subjects with both vascular risk factors and mildly impaired cognitive performance were at double the risk of delirium (RR 2.2, 95% CI, 1.2-4.2) compared with those with either of these risk factors alone.

Conclusions: Vascular risk and mildly impaired cognitive performance independently predispose patients to delirium after noncardiac surgery. These factors will help to identify high-risk patients for delirium and to design and target future intervention strategies.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Delirium / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative