Acute confusional states in the general elderly population: An overview of delirium

  • Carmen Andreescu
  • Benoit H. Mulsant
  • LalithKumar Solai
  • James E. Emanuel


Delirium is a significant health problem in the elderly population. Although it is highly prevalent in multiple settings, the detection rate is very low. Difficulties related to the conceptualization and definition of delirium may explain some of the problems in identifying delirium in clinical settings. Delirium is associated with poor outcomes including high mortality rates, prolonged cognitive impairment, prolonged hospital stay, and high risk of nursing home placement. In the elderly, delirium is one of the most frequent psychiatric manifestations of physical illness or drug toxicity. Core symptoms of delirium can be organized in six types of disorders: disorder of consciousness, of wakefulness, of attention, of cognition (thinking, perception, memory, orientation), of psychomotor behavior, and of mood. Poor recognition of delirium is considered to be a main cause of poor treatment. Simple behavioral interventions can improve the outcomes of delirium. Pharmacotherapy is often needed, but the evidence-based literature supporting the use of medication is very scarce. Future research in this area is warranted.


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Copyright information

© Current Science Inc 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carmen Andreescu
  • Benoit H. Mulsant
    • 1
  • LalithKumar Solai
  • James E. Emanuel
  1. 1.Geriatric Mental HealthCAMHTorontoCanada

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