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Drugs. 2012 Jul 30;72(11):1457-71. doi: 10.2165/11635520-000000000-00000.

Delirium in critically ill patients: epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis and management.

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  • 1Department of Intensive Care Medicine, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands. i.j.zaal-2@umcutrecht.nl

Abstract

Delirium is commonly observed in critically ill patients and is associated with negative outcomes. The pathophysiology of delirium is not completely understood. However, alterations to neurotransmitters, especially acetylcholine and dopamine, inflammatory pathways and an aberrant stress response are proposed mechanisms leading to intensive care unit (ICU) delirium. Detection of delirium using a validated delirium assessment tool makes early treatment possible, which may improve prognosis. Patients at high risk of delirium, especially those with cognitive decline and advanced age, should be identified in the first 24 hours of admission to the ICU. Whether these high-risk patients benefit from haloperidol prophylaxis deserves further study. The effectiveness of a multicomponent, non-pharmacological approach is shown in non-ICU patients, which provides proof of concept for use in the ICU. The few studies on this approach in ICU patients suggest that the burden of ICU delirium may be reduced by early mobility, increased daylight exposure and the use of earplugs. In addition, the combined use of sedation, ventilation, delirium and physical therapy protocols can reduce the frequency and severity of adverse outcomes and should become part of routine practice in the ICU, as should avoidance of deliriogenic medication such as anticholinergic drugs and benzodiazepines. Once delirium develops, symptomatic treatment with antipsychotics is recommended, with haloperidol being the drug of first choice. However, there is limited evidence on the safety and effectiveness of antipsychotics in ICU delirium.

PMID:
22804788
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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