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Medical News & Perspectives
July 28, 2010

Delirium Often Not Recognized or Treated Despite Serious Long-term Consequences

JAMA. 2010;304(4):389-395. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.965

Prevalence studies have found that between 10% and 85% of hospitalized patients develop delirium, which evidence suggests has lasting consequences. Yet the condition often goes undiagnosed, resulting in missed opportunities for intervention.

Clinicians treating critically ill patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) often grapple with caring for patients who are experiencing acute and serious threats to multiple organ systems, including renal, cardiovascular, and pulmonary. In such an intense environment, threats to another key organ, the brain, may be overlooked or minimized as not being as essential to the patient's immediate well-being. But a growing body of evidence suggests that delirium can have a devastating impact on patients' immediate and long-term health and that interventions to prevent or minimize such brain dysfunction may help to improve patient outcomes.