10 Delirium Misconceptions

This table/info extracted from Oldham et al (2018) is too handy not to share:

PDF version [easy to print]: 10DeliriumMisconceptions

Text version [just putting it here so that it’s searchable; hello google :-)]

1.
Misconception: This patient is oriented to person, place, and time. They’re not delirious.
Best Evidence: Delirium evaluation minimally requires assessing attention, orientation, memory, and the thought process, ideally at least once per nursing shift, to capture daily fluctuations in mental status.
2.
Misconception: Delirium always resolves.
Best Evidence: Especially in cognitively vulnerable patients, delirium may persist for days or even months after the proximal “causes” have been addressed.
3.
Misconception: We should expect frail, older patients to get confused at times, especially after receiving pain medication.
Best Evidence: Confusion in frail, older patients always requires further assessment.
4.
Misconception: The goal of a delirium work-up is to find the main cause of delirium.
Best Evidence: Delirium aetiology is typically multifactorial.
5.
Misconception: New-onset psychotic symptoms in late life likely represents primary mental illness.
Best Evidence: New delusions or hallucinations, particularly nonauditory, in middle age or later deserve evaluation for delirium or another medical cause.
6.
Misconception: Delirium in patients with dementia is less important because these patients are already confused at baseline.
Best Evidence: Patients with dementia deserve even closer monitoring for delirium because of their elevated delirium risk and because delirium superimposed on dementia indicates marked vulnerability.
7.
Misconception: Delirium treatment should include psychotropic medication.
Best Evidence: They are best used judiciously, if at all, for specific behaviours or symptoms rather than delirium itself.
8.
Misconception: The patient is delirious due to a psychiatric cause.
Best Evidence: Delirium always has a physiological cause.
9.
Misconception: It’s often best to let quiet patients rest.
Best Evidence: Hypoactive delirium is common and often under-recognized.
10.
Misconception: Patients become delirious just from being in the intensive care unit.
Best Evidence:  Delirium in the intensive care unit, as with delirium occurring in any setting, is caused by physiological and pharmacological insults.

Source/Reference

Oldham, M., Flanagan, N., Khan, A., Boukrina, O. & Marcantonio, E. (2018) Responding to Ten Common Delirium Misconceptions With Best Evidence: An Educational Review for Clinicians. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 30:1, 51-57.
doi.org/10.1176/appi.neuropsych.17030065

End

This is the least original blog post I’ve written. All I’ve done is transpose a table from this paper.

Why bother? So I can quickly and easily share it at work. I have conversations about this stuff a lot, especially misconceptions 1, 7 and 8. It’s handy to have an accessible and credible source to support these discussions.

That’s it. Visit the journal article yourself for elaboration about the misconceptions and evidence of delirium: doi.org/10.1176/appi.neuropsych.17030065

Paul McNamara, 18 April 2019

Short URL meta4RN.com/10Delirium

 

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