History of a suspected delirium is more common in dementia with Lewy bodies than Alzheimer's disease: a retrospective study

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2014 Feb;29(2):178-81. doi: 10.1002/gps.3986. Epub 2013 May 31.


Background: Delirium is common and is associated with an increased risk of dementia. However, it is not clear whether delirium confers increased risk of any particular type of dementia. We performed a retrospective study of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) to ascertain whether a suspected episode of preceding delirium was more common prior to diagnosis in either type of dementia.

Methods: The study was carried out in a tertiary referral unit for the diagnosis of dementia. Clinic letters from the first presentation to the unit of 85 cases with DLB and 95 cases of AD were reviewed for documentation of any previous episodes of suspected delirium.

Results: In this study, 25% of DLB cases had at least one reported episode of suspected delirium as compared to 7% of AD cases (p = 0.001). For the DLB cases who had a prior suspected delirium, 23% had more than one episode compared with 14% of the AD group. The median time between most recent suspected episode of delirium and diagnosis of dementia in both groups was less than a year

Conclusions: A greater proportion of those presenting and diagnosed with DLB had a documentation of a suspected delirium than those diagnosed with AD. Delirium may lead to a higher risk of DLB as opposed to other forms of dementia, or delirium may, at least in some cases, represent the early stages of DLB. These data suggest that a diagnosis of DLB should be specifically considered in those presenting with a delirium.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Dementia with Lewy bodies; delirium; dementia.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Delirium / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lewy Body Disease / psychology*
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk