Postoperative delirium in the elderly

Anesth Analg. 1995 Jun;80(6):1223-32. doi: 10.1097/00000539-199506000-00027.


Postoperative delirium is common in the elderly in the postoperative period. It can result in increased morbidity, delayed functional recovery, and prolonged hospital stay. In surgical patients, factors such as age, alcohol abuse, low baseline cognition, severe metabolic derangement, hypoxia, hypotension, and type of surgery appear to contribute to postoperative delirium. Anesthetics, notably anticholinergic drugs and benzodiazepines, increase the risk for delirium. Despite the above recommendations, postoperative delirium in the elderly is poorly understood. Clearly, further studies are needed to determine the risk and long-term outcome of delirium in the elderly population. Research is also needed to define the effects of hypoxemia on cerebral function and whether oxygen therapy has any benefits. The geriatric-anesthesiologic intervention program of pre- and postoperative geriatric assessment, early surgery, thrombosis prophylaxis, oxygen therapy, prevention and treatment of perioperative decrease in blood pressure, and vigorous treatment of any postoperative complications showed some promise, but further definitive studies are needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Delirium / diagnosis
  • Delirium / etiology*
  • Delirium / therapy
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Complications*