Underdiagnosis and poor documentation of acute confusional states in elderly hip fracture patients

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1991 Aug;39(8):760-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1991.tb02697.x.


Study objective: To determine the accuracy of diagnosis and documentation of acute confusional states (ACS) in the medical records of patients with hip fracture.

Design: The diagnosis of ACS in two prospective clinical studies was compared to its diagnosis in the medical records of the same patients on the same hospitalization. In order to determine if the simultaneous prospective study influences the diagnostic and documentary practices evidenced in the medical records, a further comparison was done by reviewing medical records of two series of patients seen some years prior to the prospective studies.

Setting: Patients with femoral neck fractures treated at a department of orthopedic surgery in a university hospital and one retrospective control sample from a department of general surgery in a county hospital.

Subjects: Two prospective samples of patients 65 years and older treated for femoral neck fractures (n = 111 and n = 57, respectively) and two earlier retrospective samples (n = 66 and n = 68, respectively).

Measurements and main results: All comparisons showed that both physicians and nurses diagnosed ACS unsatisfactorily and documented the patients' mental status poorly. The analysis of the two retrospective medical record control samples gave the same results. Neither the physicians nor the nurses used any kind of diagnostic instrument to detect cognitive disorders in the patients.

Conclusions: ACS is a common and severe complication in elderly people treated for femoral neck fractures. Acute confusional states have, by definition, one or more causes that can often be identified and treated. Poor assessment and documentation is a threat to the patients as a correct diagnosis of ACS is a prerequisite for further assessment of its underlying causes and the consequent necessary medical and nursing care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Confusion / complications
  • Confusion / diagnosis*
  • Confusion / epidemiology
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Femoral Neck Fractures / complications*
  • Femoral Neck Fractures / nursing
  • Femoral Neck Fractures / surgery
  • Hospitals, County
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Medical Audit
  • Medical Records / standards*
  • Nursing Audit
  • Nursing Diagnosis / standards
  • Nursing Records / standards*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sweden / epidemiology