Incidence of cholinesterase inhibitor therapy initiation among hospitalized patients

J Hosp Med. 2013 Jun;8(6):304-8. doi: 10.1002/jhm.2030. Epub 2013 Mar 22.


Background: Initiation of cholinesterase inhibitor (ChEI) therapy for delirium during hospitalization is ineffective and may be associated with increased morbidity and mortality.

Objective: To describe the incidence of initiating ChEI therapy during hospitalization.

Design: A retrospective cross-sectional study.

Setting: A tertiary-care academic medical center.

Patients: Inpatient admissions from September 2010 through March 2011 with ChEI administration.

Intervention: None.

Measurements: Incidence of ChEI exposure, initiation of ChEI therapy, initiation of antipsychotics and benzodiazepines, infection, in-hospital mortality, and hospital length of stay.

Results: The incidence of adult admissions with ChEI exposure and ChEI initiation was 23.2 (95% confidence interval: 21.2-25.4) and 2 (95% confidence interval 1.5-2.8) per 1000 admissions, respectively. Of 476 admissions receiving ChEI, 9% (n = 42) initiated therapy during the hospital stay and 91% (n = 434) continued on previously started therapy. Patients initiated on ChEI therapy frequently had infection (20 of 42) and were commonly initiated on antipsychotics (14 of 42) and benzodiazepines (13 of 42). Patients were hospitalized for a median of 2 days (interquartile range, 1-4) before initiation of ChEI and were exposed to therapy for a median of 3 days (interquartile range, 2-6). Of the 41 patients discharged from the hospital, 90% (n = 37) had orders to continue the ChEI postdischarge.

Conclusions: Despite a lack of evidence to support the practice, 9% of patients who received ChEI therapy were initiated during the inpatient setting. These patients were not routinely screened for delirium and frequently received treatments associated with delirium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delirium / drug therapy*
  • Delirium / enzymology
  • Delirium / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality / trends*
  • Hospitalization / trends*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors