What is Delirium?
- “Disturbance in attention (i.e., reduced ability to direct, focus, sustain, and shift attention) and awareness (reduced orientation to the environment).
- The disturbance develops over a short period of time (usually hours to a few days), represents an acute change from baseline attention and awareness, and tends to fluctuate in severity during the course of a day.
- An additional disturbance in cognition (e.g.memory deficit, disorientation, language, visuospatial ability, or perception).
- Are not better explained by a pre-existing, established or evolving neurocognitive disorder and do not occur in the context of a severely reduced level of arousal such as coma.
- There is evidence from the history, physical examination or laboratory findings that the disturbance is a direct physiological consequence of another medical condition, substance intoxication or withdrawal (i.e. due to a drug of abuse or to a medication), or exposure to a toxin, or is due to multiple etiologies” (DSM-5 American Psychiatric Association. 2013).
Delirium Diagnostic Tools
- Confusion Assessment Method for the ICU (CAM-ICU)
- Intensive Care Delirium Screening Checklist (ICDSC)
Sedation and delirium in the intensive care unit by Reade & Finfer, 2014.
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (2016) Delirium Clinical Care Standard provides guidance across healthcare for consumers and professionals.
A few to consider, the full list of potentials from ICU is extensive:
- Hyper and Hypo Delirium
- Sedation in ICU (SPICE study)
Common reversible factors of delirium using the DELIRIUM acronym #sfhaction pic.twitter.com/bQf4GHWauU— RGP of Toronto (@RGPToronto) January 19, 2016
Interventions That Are Not Medications.
- Sleep (all those alarms and interruptions)
- Day/night or light/dark cycles
- Cognitive stimulation
- Early mobilisation
- Ensure sensory aids are utilised
- Get the hell out of ICU asap?
Post Intensive Care Syndrome
As ever early detection and intervention is essential for improving patient outcomes.
Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. (2016) Delirium Clinical Care Standard. Sydney:
DSM-5 American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing.
European Delirium Association. (2014). The DSM-5 criteria, level of arousal and delirium diagnosis: inclusiveness is safer. BMC medicine, 12(1), 141.
Inouye, S. K., van Dyck, C. H., Alessi, C. A., Balkin, S., Siegal, A. P., & Horwitz, R. I. (1990). Clarifying confusion: The confusion assessment methoda new method for detection of delirium. Annals of internal medicine, 113(12), 941-948.
Reade, M. C., & Finfer, S. (2014). Sedation and delirium in the intensive care unit. New England Journal of Medicine, 370(5), 444-454.
Shehabi, Y., Bellomo, R., Reade, M. C., Bailey, M., Bass, F., Howe, B., … & Sedation Practice in Intensive Care Evaluation (SPICE) Study Investigators and the ANZICS Clinical Trials Group. (2012). Early intensive care sedation predicts long-term mortality in ventilated critically ill patients. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 186(8), 724-731.
Tullmann, D. F. (2001). Assessment of delirium: Another step forward. Critical care medicine, 29(7), 1481-1482.