The journal of nutrition, health & aging

, Volume 20, Issue 9, pp 927–936 | Cite as

Non-pharmacological interventions to prevent or treat delirium in older patients: Clinical practice recommendations the SENATOR-ONTOP series

  • Iosief Abraha
  • J. M. Rimland
  • F. Trotta
  • V. Pierini
  • A. Cruz-Jentoft
  • R. Soiza
  • D. O’Mahony
  • A. Cherubini



The ONTOP project aims to undertake a literature search of systematic reviews concerning evidence-based non-pharmacological interventions of prevalent medical conditions affecting older people, including delirium.


To develop explicit and transparent recommendations for nonpharmacological interventions in older subjects at risk of developing delirium, as well as in older subjects with delirium, based on the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach to rating the quality of evidence and the strength of recommendations.


A multidisciplinary panel was constituted comprising geriatricians, research nurse and a clinical epidemiologist. The panel developed a systematic overview of non-pharmacological interventions to prevent or treat delirium. The GRADE approach was used to rate the evidence and to formulate recommendations.


The critical outcomes were delirium incidence, for delirium prevention, and delirium improvement and functional status, for delirium treatment. The non-pharmacological interventions were identified and categorized as multicomponent and single component. Strong recommendations in favor of multicomponent interventions to prevent delirium, in surgical or medicals wards, were formulated. In the latter case the evidence applied to older patients at intermediate - high risk of developing delirium. Weak recommendations, to prevent delirium, were formulated for multicomponent interventions provided by family members (medical ward), staff education (medical ward), ear plugs (intensive care unit), reorientation protocol (intensive care unit), and the use of a software to perform drug review. Weak recommendations were provided for the use of multicomponent interventions to prevent delirium in medical wards in patients not selected according to the risk of delirium. Strong recommendations not to use bright light therapy to prevent delirium in intensive care unit settings were articulated. Weak recommendations not to use music therapy to prevent delirium for patients undergoing surgical interventions were specified. The ability to make strong recommendations was limited by the low quality of evidence and the presence of uncertainty. Moreover, weak recommendations were provided for the use of multicomponent interventions to treat delirium of older patients (medical wards).


Overall, the panel developed 12 recommendations for the delivery of non-pharmacological interventions to older patients at risk of developing or, with delirium.


Delirium non-pharmacological intervention multicomponent intervention clinical practice recommendation 


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Copyright information

© Serdi and Springer-Verlag France 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iosief Abraha
    • 1
  • J. M. Rimland
    • 1
  • F. Trotta
    • 1
  • V. Pierini
    • 1
  • A. Cruz-Jentoft
    • 2
  • R. Soiza
    • 3
  • D. O’Mahony
    • 4
  • A. Cherubini
    • 1
  1. 1.Geriatrics and Geriatric Emergency CareItalian National Research Center on Aging (IRCCS-INRCA)AnconaItaly
  2. 2.Servicio de GeriatríaHospital Universitario Ramón y CajalMadridSpain
  3. 3.Department of Medicine for the ElderlyWoodend HospitalAberdeenUK
  4. 4.Department of MedicineUniversity College CorkCorkIreland

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