-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- Delirium occurs in nearly
half of older patients right after they have major surgery with
general anesthesia, a small, new study finds.
Researchers looked at 91 patients, average age 79, and found
that 45 percent of them experienced a sudden change in level of
consciousness, inattention and disturbed mental function -- called
early delirium -- in the recovery room.
In many cases, delirium persisted after patients were moved to
hospital wards. Overall, about three-quarters of all cases of
delirium that occurred in the hospital after surgery began in the
Patients with early delirium showed significant declines in
mental function, even after the researchers accounted for other
factors, including length of surgery.
All of the patients in the study lived independently before
their surgery. The study found that 39 percent of patients with
early, persistent delirium were discharged from the hospital to a
nursing home or other facility instead of to their home, compared
with 3 percent of those without early delirium.
Among patients who had early delirium but were normal on the day
after surgery, 26 percent were discharged to an institution,
according to the study, which was published in the August issue of
Anesthesia & Analgesia.
The findings show that delirium is a "common but not universal"
problem for elderly patients who have surgery, said Dr. Karin
Neufeld, of Johns Hopkins University, and colleagues. They said 55
percent of patients did not have delirium in the recovery room, and
85 percent of them remained normal throughout their hospital
The findings suggest, however, that even brief periods of
delirium can have lasting effects in seniors, according to a
journal news release. The researchers said many cases of delirium
in this study would have been missed if monitoring had started the
day after surgery, rather than in the recovery room.
Although the researchers found an association among surgery,
early delirium in seniors and being discharged to an institution
instead of home, the study did not establish a cause-and-effect
The researchers said further studies are needed to determine the
rate and impact of early delirium after anesthesia and surgery.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about
seniors and surgery.
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