Risk Factors and Outcomes for Postoperative Delirium after Major Surgery in Elderly Patients

PLoS One. 2015 Aug 20;10(8):e0136071. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136071. eCollection 2015.


Background: Early identification of patients at risk for delirium is important, since adequate well timed interventions could prevent occurrence of delirium and related detrimental outcomes. The aim of this study is to evaluate prognostic factors for delirium, including factors describing frailty, in elderly patients undergoing major surgery.

Methods: We included patients of 65 years and older, who underwent elective surgery from March 2013 to November 2014. Patients had surgery for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) or colorectal cancer. Delirium was scored prospectively using the Delirium Observation Screening Scale. Pre- and peri-operative predictors of delirium were analyzed using regression analysis. Outcomes after delirium included adverse events, length of hospital stay, discharge destination and mortality.

Results: We included 232 patients. 51 (22%) underwent surgery for AAA and 181 (78%) for colorectal cancer. Postoperative delirium occurred in 35 patients (15%). Predictors of postoperative delirium included: delirium in medical history (Odds Ratio 12 [95% Confidence Interval 2.7-50]), advancing age (Odds Ratio 2.0 [95% Confidence Interval 1.1-3.8]) per 10 years, and ASA-score ≥3 (Odds Ratio 2.6 [95% Confidence Interval 1.1-5.9]). Occurrence of delirium was related to an increase in adverse events, length of hospital stay and mortality.

Conclusion: Postoperative delirium is a frequent complication after major surgery in elderly patients and is related to an increase in adverse events, length of hospital stay, and mortality. A delirium in the medical history, advanced age, and ASA-score may assist in defining patients at increased risk for delirium. Further attention to prevention of delirium is essential in elderly patients undergoing major surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal / surgery
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Delirium / diagnosis
  • Delirium / etiology*
  • Delirium / mortality
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / adverse effects*
  • Transfusion Reaction
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Hemoglobins

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.