Delirium is an acute confusional state that results from a sudden change in cerebral function. It occurs when there is an impairment in the normal signal pathway in the brain and it is usually temporary and reversible. Delirium manifests clinically as a wide range of neural and psychiatric abnormalities.
Obtaining a thorough history is very important for diagnosis of this condition as there are no medical investigations that can diagnose delirium. Delirious patients are often confused and unable to provide accurate information so the history should be obtained from relatives and caregivers. Some of the symptoms that would be mentioned are disorientation, difficulty is maintaining concentration, shifting attention, illusions, reversal in sleep-wake cycle and hallucinations. These symptoms are usually worse at night and show improvement during the day. Other neurological symptoms that could be reported are motor abnormalities, uremia, tremors, dysarthria and dysphagia .
Elderly patients who present with symptoms of delirium usually have an underlying illness precipitating it.
In addition to its use for these indications olanzapine has also been used in the management of chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting and otherwise difficult to control nausea and vomiting in palliative care settings. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
There are several potential causes of these imbalances: Hypercalcemia, which is too much calcium in the blood Dehydration from not taking in enough fluids because of nausea, vomiting, or not being able to swallow comfortably. [cancer.net]
We did not find any clear differences between the two groups in terms of duration of delirium ( MD -3.6, 95% CI -15.6 to 8.4), adverse events (nausea, RR 0.30, 95% CI 0.01 to 6.29), use of rescue medications ( RR 0.13, 95% CI 0.01 to 2.1), mortality [cochrane.org]
[…] complications from alcohol withdrawal Usually generalized tonic-clonic seizures Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, including: Anxiety, depression Fatigue Headache Insomnia (difficulty falling and staying asleep) Irritability or excitability Loss of appetite Nausea [medlineplus.gov]
- Abdominal Pain
Are there any new physical symptoms — for example, chest or abdominal pain? The doctor will ask additional questions based on your responses and the person's symptoms and needs. [mayoclinic.org]
pain, abdominal distention, history of cirrhosis Liver function tests; measurement of lipase level and ammonia levels Infection suspected Blood cultures, complete blood count, chest radiography, computed tomography, lumbar puncture, urinalysis with culture [aafp.org]
- Loss of Appetite
[…] of appetite Nausea, vomiting Nervousness, jumpiness, shakiness, palpitations (sensation of feeling the heart beat) Pale skin Rapid emotional changes Sweating, especially on the palms of the hands or the face Other symptoms that may occur: Chest pain [medlineplus.gov]
Some of the symptoms and warning signs of teen drug abuse include reddened whites of eyes, paranoia, sleepiness, excessive happiness, seizures, memory loss, increased appetite, discolored fingertips, lips or teeth, and irritability. [medicinenet.com]
[…] anxiety, nightmares), in a very few cases resulting in accidental injury or fatal outcomes en Other medically significant sequelae of overdose include delirium, convulsion, coma, possible neuroleptic malignant syndrome, respiratory depression, aspiration, hypertension [sk.glosbe.com]
DTs is the most severe manifestation of alcohol withdrawal and clinical manifestations include agitation, global confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, fever, hypertension, diaphoresis, and autonomic hyperactivity (tachycardia and hypertension). [emedicine.medscape.com]
In the multivariate analysis hypertension, smoking history, abnormal bilirubin level, epidural use and morphine were statistically significantly associated with delirium. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
[…] discharge and higher nursing home placement rates PATHOPHYSIOLOGY complex and poorly understood altered cerebral blood flow numerous biomarkers e.g. s100beta protein, neuron specific enolase, ILs RISK-FACTORS Baseline age preexisting dementia history of hypertension [lifeinthefastlane.com]
[…] hemorrhage, tumour, seizure disorder, Parkinson’s) H ypoxia (anemia, cardiac failure, pulmonary embolus) D eficiencies (vitamin B 12, folic acid, thiamine) E ndocrinopathies (thyroid, glucose, parathyroid, adrenal) A cute vascular (shock, vasculitis, hypertensive [fammedref.org]
Its importance cannot be overemphasized, for acute confusion is a far more common herald of the onset of physical illness in an older person than are, for example, fever, pain or tachycardia." 7 The elderly, especially the very old, are uniquely prone [doi.org]
During withdrawal from alcohol, the loss of GABA-A receptor stimulation causes a reduction in chloride flux and is associated with tremors, diaphoresis, tachycardia, anxiety, and seizures. [emedicine.medscape.com]
A focused assessment is often needed, with particular attention paid to vital signs (hypo/hypertension, fever/hypothermia, tachycardia, tachypnea), the state of hydration (mucus membranes, skin turgor), skin condition (decubiti, cellulitis) and potential [clinicaladvisor.com]
[…] symptoms of hypo- or hyperglycemia Measurement of thyroid-stimulating hormone and serum glucose levels; measurement of serum cortisol level or adrenocorticotropic hormone stimulation test Environmental exposure: shivering, hypo- or hypertension, brady- or tachycardia [aafp.org]
In chronic alcoholism, attacks of delirium tremens (DTs), marked by hallucinations, sweating, trembling, and anxiety, may persist for several days. [onlinerecnik.com]
[…] en They braved many hardships, such as recurrent attacks of malaria, with its symptoms of shivering, sweating, and delirium. sk Tu ide o česť nášho kráľovstva en In patients with influenza who were receiving Tamiflu, there have been postmarketing reports [sk.glosbe.com]
She is said to smell of sweat, late nights, sour wine, and old leather. Her sigil in the galleries of the other Endless is a multicolored, abstract swirl. [sandman.wikia.com]
The nervous sweats. The mood swings. The jealousy. The carving of your boyfriend or girlfriend's name into your desk and hiding it so you don't get in trouble. The feeling that you're just going to die if the relationship doesn't work out. Yikes. [shmoop.com]
Unfocused and distracted selectivity results in chaotic cognitions and the typical symptoms of delirium. Several terms are used to describe the deficits of delirium; rarely are they defined, and often they are used loosely and inconsistently. [dictionary.cambridge.org]
The essestial features of delirium include: Acute onset (hours/days) and a fluctuating course Inattention or distraction Disorganized thinking or a altered level of consciousness Treatment of delirium, like dementia, is managed both pharmacologically [hopkinsmedicine.org]
To save this word, you'll need to log in. a state of wildly excited activity or emotion shoppers running around in a delirium the day before Christmas agitation, deliriousness, distraction, fever, feverishness, flap, frenzy, furor, furore, fury, hysteria [merriam-webster.com]
At this point, it seems unlikely she'll be disoriented, distracted or disrupted by anyone. Download: On My Mind, Don't Panic, Lost And Found. [usatoday.com]
- Visual Hallucination
Although she exhibited transient visual hallucinations during the delirium, she had no overt dementia. She developed no core clinical features of DLB and died of pneumonia at the age of 90 years. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
While visual hallucinations can occur in patients with primary psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, they are much less common than auditory hallucinations. [aafp.org]
- Aggressive Behavior
The forensic pathologist should consider cocaine-induced excited delirium when an individual exhibits aggressive behavior, unexpected strength, and resistance to pain who dies suddenly. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
[…] issues Escalating physically aggressive behavior or threats of violence Persistent danger to self or others Table 9. [aafp.org]
(n=41) and/or (3) were identified as confused by nursing staff (n=52) and/or (4) had ‘confusion’ documented in the case notes (n=29). [doi.org]
Subtypes of delirium [ 4 ] Hypoactive subtype - apathy and quiet confusion are present and easily missed. This type can be confused with depression. [patient.info]
Following discontinuation of dexmedetomidine, her fever, agitation and delirium ceased. We depict the first known case of dexmedetomidine causing high fevers and delirium. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Wake Up and Breathe Flowchart Choice of Analgesia and Sedation Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale (RASS) Riker Sedation-Agitation Scale (SAS) Level of Arousal Assessment Conversions MDCalc iOS and Android app Protocol for Management of Pain, Agitation [icudelirium.org]
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Delirium was detected using the Confusion Assessment Method and categorized in hypoactive, hyperactive, or mixed delirium. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Two subtypes have been described—hyperactive and hypoactive—based on differential psychomotor features. [accessmedicine.mhmedical.com]
At times, patients are restless Patients are restless and physically hyperactive The longer delirium lasts, the higher the impact Delirium detection is complicated and confusing. [prolira.com]
Excited delirium denotes a life-threatening medical condition characterized by the acute onset of agitated and violent behavior that often results in a sudden and unexplained death. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
‘I ended up getting a digital keyboard, which was so amazing to me - excitement to the point of delirium.’ ‘The smell of incense filled the room and transported me, in my delirium, back to my youth as a Miami altar boy.’ [en.oxforddictionaries.com]
Delirium Candles are meant to elicit a calculable response when experienced; a state of uncontrolled excitement or emotion. Intoxicating, familiar, mysterious, arresting, unconventional, magnetic, hypnotic. [candledelirium.com]
[…] de·lir·i·um | \ di-ˈlir-ē-əm \ 1 : an acute (see acute sense 1a(2) ) mental disturbance characterized by confused thinking and disrupted attention usually accompanied by disordered speech and hallucinations 2 : frenzied excitement he would stride about [merriam-webster.com]
Minor alcohol withdrawal is characterized by tremor, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia. [emedicine.medscape.com]
At 11-month follow-up, only mild executive dysfunction and persistent right postural tremor was noted, MRI showed partial regression of subcortical and juxtacortical lesions. © BMJ Publishing Group Ltd (unless otherwise stated in the text of the article [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Symptoms may get worse quickly, and can include: Delirium, which is sudden severe confusion Body tremors Changes in mental function Agitation, irritability Deep sleep that lasts for a day or longer Excitement or fear Hallucinations (seeing or feeling [medlineplus.gov]
Alcoholic delirium—called delirium tremens because of the characteristic tremor—is a result not merely of excessive consumption of alcohol but of a complicating exhaustion, lack of food, and dehydration; prior to the outbreak of delirium, the patient [britannica.com]
[…] quiet Be unusually aggressive Use inappropriate words Be unable to pay attention or follow directions See or hear things that are not there Be unaware of their surroundings Act differently than normal Have memory problems Undergo emotional changes May tremor [centrahealth.com]
There is no one test for diagnosing delirium, but there are numerous tests that could be useful for diagnosing precipitating symptoms. Blood tests like complete blood count, sedimentation rate and bacterial/viral culture are used to rule out underlying infections. Blood tests also help to detect electrolyte derangement and problems with glucose metabolism. They are useful to determine renal, hepatic and thyroid function. Urine tests are also used to check for infections and toxicology screening to check for drugs and poisons. HIV tests and tests for vitamin B12 and thiamine are also carried out.
Imaging studies are also done to check the structure of the brain and they include CT scans and MRI. Electroencephalogram (EEG) is also useful in delirium as it may also give an indication to the cause of the delirium based on the wave patterns. A chest radiograph also is used diagnose congestive heart failure or pneumonia.
The most important step in treatment is to identify the underlying cause and eliminate it. The mainstay of delirium treatment is supportive therapy and drug therapy.
Supportive therapy involves maintaining normal hydration as nutrition levels. Thiamine should be given to patients who are undergoing alcohol withdrawal. It is important for the patient’s environment to be quiet, stable and well-lit.
Memory cues like clocks, family photos and calendars are useful in reorientation. Reorientation should be reinforced by family members. Sensory defects should be corrected as required. It is important to avoid physical restraints as it only heightens the patient’s perception of problems and could lead to combative behaviour. It is important that these patients are closely monitored and never left alone .
Medication should be considered in patients who cause injuries to themselves or others. Medications used include neuroleptics like haloperidol and risperidone and short-acting sedatives like lorazepam. Sedatives are used in patients withdrawing from alcohol or sedative hypnotics .
There are mortality rates of up to 26% in patients admitted with delirium. Patients who develop delirium in the hospital have a mortality rate of up to 76%. For post-operative and elderly patients, delirium could lead to extended hospital stay, increased complications, extra costs and disability .
Delirium is often a result of conditions that impair the supply of oxygen and other substances in the brain. Some of the causes include infections like urinary tract infections (UTI) and pneumonia, dehydration, metabolic derangements, withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and drugs, drug toxicity, chemicals, seizures, head injuries, surgeries and chronic illnesses amongst others .
It is a fairly common condition and is seen is about 14 to 56% of hospitalized elderly patients. Up to 30% of cases develop after admission and 40% of patients admitted to intensive care units develop delirium. The prevalence of post-surgical delirium is also high with as high as 40% of patients developing delirium after orthopaedic surgery. Delirium is also very common in nursing home residents and as much as 80% of people develop delirium near death. It has no race or sex predilection .
There are 3 recognizable delirium types based on the state of arousal. Hyperactive delirium is associated with intoxication with some stimulant drugs or withdrawal from alcohol. Hypoactive delirium is seen in patients with hepatic encephalopathy. In the third type, mixed delirium, there is usually sedation during the day and at night, patients develop behavioural problems.
There has been no clear understanding of the mechanism by which delirium occurs as it results from various psychological and physical insults. The widely accepted hypothesis is that there are multiple neurotransmitter abnormalities and reversible impairment of the cerebral oxidative mechanism. Observations such as reduced cholinesterase activity and increased dopaminergic activity support the hypothesis of neurotransmitter abnormalities .
There is no specific prevention for delirium as it is a consequence of various other conditions. The preventive measures implemented for specific conditions which cause disturbance in cerebral function can indirectly prevent delirium.
- Definition: Delirium is a sudden change in brain function that results when there is an interruption in the sending and receiving of signals in the brain. It is characterised by hallucinations and decreased awareness.
- Cause: Delirium is often seen in patients who have prolonged stay in the hospital, especially the intensive care unit. It is caused by a problem with neurotransmitter function and a problem with oxygen mechanism in the brain. Some of the things that could lead to this include infections, drugs and drug withdrawal, seizures, head injuries, surgeries and long term illnesses.
- Symptoms: Some of symptoms to look out for include change in mood, difficulty concentrating, hallucinations, confusion, change in sleep pattern, movement disorders and incontinence.
- Diagnosis: This is usually made based on the symptoms and sign. Some tests may however be needed to check for the possible causes. Blood tests will check for infection, glucose level, electrolyte level, and the kidney, liver and thyroid functions. Imaging studies may also be carried out on the brain to check the structure and activity.
- Treatment: The treatment is usually supportive. The family members and caregivers are essential for this step. It involves helping the patient remember and slowly integrate him into his normal life. Fluid and nutrition are given and drugs are used in some special cases .
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- Limosin F, Loze JY, Boni C, et al. The A9 allele of the dopamine transporter gene increases the risk of visual hallucinations during alcohol withdrawal in alcohol-dependent women. Neurosci Lett. May 20 2004;362(2):91-4.
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- Anderson CP, Ngo LH, Marcantonio ER. Complications in Postacute Care Are Associated with Persistent Delirium. J Am Geriatr Soc. May 30 2012
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- Inouye SK, Charpentier PA. Precipitating factors for delirium in hospitalized elderly persons. Predictive model and interrelationship with baseline vulnerability. JAMA. Mar 20 1996;275(11):852-7.