Sudeep S. Gill, MD, MSc, FRCPC, Assistant Professor, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON.
Delirium is common among hospitalized older adults and is associated with significant morbidity and excess mortality. Despite its prevalence and consequences, delirium is often underrecognized and undertreated. Antipsychotic drugs are commonly used to manage symptoms of delirium, but few controlled trials exist to support their efficacy and safety in this setting. Several recent studies have focussed on preventing delirium in high-risk populations. Clinical trials have demonstrated benefits with multifaceted nonpharmacological interventions, but widespread implementation of these interventions has not yet occurred. Two recent drug trials evaluated an antipsychotic and a cholinesterase inhibitor to prevent delirium, but neither trial demonstrated a reduction in incident delirium. At present, the most promising approach involves targeted, multifactorial interventions that focus on preventing delirium in high-risk patient groups. More work is needed to facilitate the implementation of these evidence-based strategies.
Key words: delirium, prevention, treatment, antipsychotic drugs, cholinesterase inhibitors.