The Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network: risk reduction and management of delirium

Age Ageing. 2019 Jul 1;48(4):485-488. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afz036.


Clinical and research interest in delirium has been rising over the last 15 years. The Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) publication on delirium is a state-of-the-art synthesis of the field, and the first UK guideline since 2010. There is new guidance around delirium detection, particularly in recommending the 4 'A's Test (4AT). The 4AT has the advantage of being brief, embeds and operationalises cognitive testing, and is scalable with little training. The guidelines highlight the importance of non-pharmacological management for all hospital presentations involving the spectrum of cognitive disorders (delirium, dementia but at risk of delirium, delirium superimposed on dementia). Pharmacotherapy has a minimal role, but specific indications (e.g. intractable distress) are discussed. Advances in delirium research, education and policy, have come together with steady changes in the sociocultural context in which healthcare systems look after older people with cognitive impairment. However, there remains a gap between desired and actual clinical practice, one which might be bridged by re-engaging with compassionate, patient-centred care. In this respect, these SIGN guidelines offer a key resource.

Keywords: clinical guidelines; delirium; older people; public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Delirium / diagnosis
  • Delirium / prevention & control*
  • Delirium / therapy
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Scotland