Hospital Delirium: one-third of those over 70 (NYT)

This New York Times article is on hospital delirium, which affects one-third of hospital patients over 70.
Some excerpts:

“The cause of delirium is unclear, but there are many apparent triggers: infections, surgery, pneumonia, and procedures like catheter insertions, all of which can spur anxiety in frail, vulnerable patients. Some medications, difficult for older people to metabolize, seem associated with delirium.”

“But new research shows significant negative effects.  Even short episodes can hinder recovery from patients’ initial conditions, extending hospitalizations, delaying scheduled procedures like surgery, requiring more time and attention from staff members and escalating health care costs. Afterward, patients are more often placed, whether temporarily or permanently, in nursing homes or rehabilitation centers. Older delirium sufferers are more likely to develop dementia later. And, Dr. Inouye found, 35 percent to 40 percent die within a year.”

“Dr. Malaz A. Boustani…found that elderly patients experiencing delirium were hospitalized six days longer, and placed in nursing homes 75 percent of the time, five times as often as those without delirium. Nearly one-tenth died within a month. Experts say delirium can contribute to death by weakening patients or leading to complications like pneumonia or blood clots.”

Here’s a link to the full article:

Hallucinations in Hospital Pose Risk to Elderly
New York Times
By Pam Belluck
June 20, 2010

Clearly we need to have more effort in hospitals to prevent delirium!