, Volume 13, Issue 9, pp 621-623

Diagnosing delirium by telephone

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To determine whether delirium can be diagnosed by telephone, we interviewed 41 subjects aged 65 years or older 1 month after repair of hip fracture, first by telephone and then face-to-face. Interviews included the modified telephone Mini-Mental State Examination and the Delirium Symptom Interview. Delirium was diagnosed using the Confusion Assessment Method diagnostic algorithm, and the telephone results were compared with the face-to-face results (the “gold standard”). Of 41 subjects, 6 were delirious by face-to-face assessment; all 6 were delirious by telephone (sensitivity 1.00). Of 35 patients not delirious by face-to-face assessment, 33 patients were not delirious by telephone (specificity=0.94). We conclude that telephone interviews can effectively rule out delirium, but the positive diagnosis should be confirmed by a face-to-face assessment, especially in populations with a low prevalence of delirium.

Presented in part at the American Geriatrics Society national meeting, 1996.
This work was funded by a pilot project grant from the Older Americans Independence Center, P60 AG08812-06; an Academic Award from the National Institute on Aging, K08-AG00648; and a postdoctoral fellowship from the Medical Foundation: Charles A. King Trust.