Delirium in the medically ill elderly: operationalizing the DSM-III criteria

Int Psychogeriatr. Winter 1991;3(2):181-96. doi: 10.1017/s1041610291000650.


This prospective study determined the incidence and prevalence of delirium in 235 consecutive subjects over age 70 admitted to a general medicine hospital service. The DSM-III criteria for delirium were operationalized. Using accepted screening procedures, patients were referred for evaluation by a psychiatrist who determined whether delirium was present by applying explicit operational definitions to each of the DSM-III criteria. Data on presence and severity of each of the DSM-III symptoms were recorded. Analysis of these data indicates that the DSM-III criteria describe a discrete, recognizable syndrome. However, some of the symptoms are more specific than others in identifying the syndrome in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Delirium / diagnosis*
  • Delirium / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Care Team
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics