Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 33, Issue 10, pp 1726–1731 | Cite as

Motoric subtypes of delirium in mechanically ventilated surgical and trauma intensive care unit patients

  • Pratik Pandharipande
  • Bryan A. CottonEmail author
  • Ayumi Shintani
  • Jennifer Thompson
  • Sean Costabile
  • Brenda Truman Pun
  • Robert Dittus
  • E. Wesley Ely



Acute brain dysfunction or delirium occurs in the majority of mechanically ventilated (MV) medical intensive care unit (ICU) patients and is associated with increased mortality. Unfortunately delirium often goes undiagnosed as health care providers fail to recognize in particular the hypoactive form that is characterized by depressed consciousness without the positive symptoms such as agitation. Recently, clinical tools have been developed that help to diagnose delirium and determine the subtypes. Their use, however, has not been reported in surgical and trauma patients. The objective of this study was to identify the prevalence of the motoric subtypes of delirium in surgical and trauma ICU patients.


Adult surgical and trauma ICU patients requiring MV longer than 24 h were prospectively evaluated for arousal and delirium using well validated instruments. Sedation and delirium were assessed using the Richmond Agitation Sedation Scale (RASS) and the Confusion Assessment Method in the ICU (CAM-ICU), respectively. Patients were monitored for delirium for a maximum of 10 days or until ICU discharge.


A total of 100 ICU patients (46 surgical and 54 trauma) were enrolled in this study. Three patients were excluded from the final analysis because they stayed persistently comatose prior to their death.

Measurements and results

Prevalence of delirium was 70% for the entire study population with 73% surgical and 67% trauma ICU patients having delirium. Evaluation of the subtypes of delirium revealed that in surgical and trauma patients, hypoactive delirium (64% and 60%, respectively) was significantly more prevalent than the mixed (9% and 6%) and the pure hyperactive delirium (0% and 1%).


The prevalence of the hypoactive or “quiet” subtype of delirium in surgical and trauma ICU patients appears similar to that of previously published data in medical ICU patients. In the absence of active monitoring with a validated clinical instrument (CAM-ICU), however, this subtype of delirium goes undiagnosed and the prevalence of delirium in surgical and trauma ICU patients remains greatly underestimated.


Aging Trauma Surgery Cognitive impairment Delirium subtypes Mechanical ventilation 



P.P. is the recipient of the Vanderbilt Physician Scientist Development Award and the ASCCA–FAER–Abbot Physician Scientist Award. E.W.E. is the Associate Director of Research for the VA Tennessee Valley Geriatric Research and Education Clinical Center. He is a recipient of the Paul Beeson Faculty Scholar Award from the Alliance for Aging Research and is a recipient of a K23 from the National Institute of Health (#AG01023–01A1), a RO–1 from the National Institute of Aging (#AG0727201–A1) and a VA MERIT Award from CSRND. The funding agencies had no role in the design or conduct of the study, data collection, management, analysis or interpretation of the data. In addition, they had no role in the preparation, review or approval of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pratik Pandharipande
    • 1
  • Bryan A. Cotton
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ayumi Shintani
    • 3
    • 4
  • Jennifer Thompson
    • 4
  • Sean Costabile
    • 1
  • Brenda Truman Pun
    • 5
  • Robert Dittus
    • 3
  • E. Wesley Ely
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Anesthesia/Critical Care MedicineEducation and Clinical CenterNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Surgery/Division of Trauma, Emergency Surgery and Surgical Critical CareVanderbilt University School of MedicineNashvilleUSA
  3. 3.Division of General Internal MedicineNashvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biostatistics, Emergency Surgery and Surgical Critical CareVanderbilt University School of MedicineNashvilleUSA
  5. 5.Division of Allergy/Pulmonary/Critical Care MedicineVanderbilt University School of MedicineNashvilleUSA

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