Delirium: clinical approach and prevention

Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol. 2012 Sep;26(3):311-26. doi: 10.1016/j.bpa.2012.07.001.


Delirium, defined as an acute fluctuating change in mental state, with consciousness and cognitive impairment, has been found to have a high incidence in hospitalised patients, as well as being associated with increased morbidity and mortality, prolonged stays in the intensive care unit (ICU) and in hospital and higher costs. However, delirium is not easy to detect, since its diagnosis is mainly clinical. Yet the importance of early diagnosis and possible prevention in the different clinical scenarios is clear, to improve patient prognosis. This review provides a practical approach to delirium management through: (a) its classification and diagnosis utilising validated tools and (b) the use of non-pharmacological protocols and of an early prediction model to identify high-risk patients, who are more likely to benefit from pharmacological prophylaxis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delirium / diagnosis
  • Delirium / prevention & control*
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Length of Stay
  • Models, Biological*
  • Prognosis