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Am Fam Physician. 2003 Mar 1;67(5):1027-34.

Delirium.

Author information

  • Department of Psychiatry, University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74135-2512, USA. ondria-gleason@ouhsc.edu

Abstract

Delirium is characterized by an acute change in cognition and a disturbance of consciousness, usually resulting from an underlying medical condition or from medication or drug withdrawal. Delirium affects 10 to 30 percent of hospitalized patients with medical illness; more than 50 percent of persons in certain high-risk populations are affected. The associated morbidity and mortality make diagnosis of this condition extremely important. Patients with delirium can present with agitation, somnolence, withdrawal, and psychosis. This variation in presentation can lead to diagnostic confusion and, in some cases, incorrect attribution of symptoms to a primary psychiatric disorder. To make the distinction, it is important to obtain the history of the onset and course of the condition from family members or caregivers. Primary care physicians must be able to recognize delirium so that the underlying etiology can be ascertained and addressed. The management of delirium involves identifying and correcting the underlying problem, and symptomatically managing any behavioral or psychiatric symptoms. Low doses of antipsychotic drugs can help to control agitation. The use of benzodiazepines should be avoided except in cases of alcohol or sedative-hypnotic withdrawal. Environmental interventions, including frequent reorientation of patients by nursing staff and education of patients and families, should be employed in all cases.

PMID:
12643363
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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