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Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2013 Dec;21(12):1173-89. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2013.04.007. Epub 2013 Jul 30.

The epidemiology of delirium: challenges and opportunities for population studies.

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Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom. Electronic address:


Delirium is a serious and common acute neuropsychiatric syndrome that is associated with short- and long-term adverse health outcomes. However, relatively little delirium research has been conducted in unselected populations. Epidemiologic research in such populations has the potential to resolve several questions of clinical significance in delirium. Part 1 of this article explores the importance of population selection, case-ascertainment, attrition, and confounding. Part 2 examines a specific question in delirium epidemiology: What is the relationship between delirium and trajectories of cognitive decline? This section assesses previous work through two systematic reviews and proposes a design for investigating delirium in the context of longitudinal cohort studies. Such a design requires robust links between community and hospital settings. Practical considerations for case-ascertainment in the hospital, as well as the necessary quality control of these programs, are outlined. We argue that attention to these factors is important if delirium research is to benefit fully from a population perspective.


Delirium; dementia; epidemiology; systematic review

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