Delirium Common among Elderly PACU Patients, Associated with Cognitive Decline

August 21, 2013 | Strategic Insights for Health System


Postoperative delirium among elderly patients in the postanesthesia care unit (PACU) is associated with subsequent delirium on the ward, and potentially with a decline in cognitive function and increased risk of institutionalization at hospital discharge, reports a study published in the August 2013 issue of Anesthesia and Analgesia. The study, which enrolled 91 patients age 70 or older who were scheduled to undergo elective or emergent surgery with general anesthesia at a teaching hospital from July 2010 to August 2010, found that the prevalence of delirium in the PACU was 45%. Furthermore, 74% of all delirium episodes detected during subsequent hospitalization began in the PACU. Researchers evaluated the participants’ cognitive function prior to surgery, then assessed them for the presence of delirium after surgery using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) criteria.

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