Policy briefing

Treat delirium as a medical emergency

Delirium is among the most common medical emergencies and risk reduction should be considered throughout a patient’s care, new guidance says

Delirium is among the most common medical emergencies and risk reduction should be considered throughout a patient’s care, new guidance says

Essential facts

Delirium is among the most common of medical emergencies, according to the national clinical guideline organisation the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN).

Delirium is an acute deterioration in mental functioning arising over hours or days that is triggered mainly by acute medical illness, surgery, trauma or drugs. Prevalence is around 20% in adult acute general medical patients. It affects up to 50% of those who have hip fractures and up to 75% of those in intensive care. Risk factors include older age, dementia, frailty, the presence of multiple co-morbidities, being male, sensory impairments, a history of depression, a history of delirium and alcohol misuse.

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