Delirium in elderly adults: diagnosis, prevention and treatment

Nat Rev Neurol. 2009 Apr;5(4):210-20. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2009.24.


Delirium is a common and serious acute neuropsychiatric syndrome with core features of inattention and global cognitive dysfunction. The etiologies of delirium are diverse and multifactorial and often reflect the pathophysiological consequences of an acute medical illness, medical complication or drug intoxication. Delirium can have a widely variable presentation, and is often missed and underdiagnosed as a result. At present, the diagnosis of delirium is clinically based and depends on the presence or absence of certain features. Management strategies for delirium are focused on prevention and symptom management. This article reviews current clinical practice in delirium in elderly individuals, including the diagnosis, treatment, outcomes and economic impact of this syndrome. Areas of future research are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Delirium / diagnosis*
  • Delirium / epidemiology
  • Delirium / physiopathology
  • Delirium / therapy*
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Humans