-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Hospital patients who are
moved from regular care into isolation have a nearly twofold
increased risk of developing delirium, but patients who begin their
hospital stay in isolation aren't at increased risk, researchers
Delirium is a potentially dangerous change in mental status that
can affect hospital patients. The condition is usually temporary
but can have an impact on patient care. Symptoms include an
inability to pay attention, confusion and a fluctuation in
Placing a patient in isolation is one of the measures used to
prevent the spread of hard-to-treat infections such as
Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA). These measures, known as
contact precautions, also require health care workers to wear
protective equipment such as masks and gowns.
In this study, University of Maryland School of Medicine
researchers examined two years of patient data from the
university's medical center. Patients who were placed on contact
precautions at some point during their hospital stay had a 1.75
times increased risk of developing delirium, the investigators
However, patients who were placed on contact precautions at the
time they were admitted to hospital did not have an increased risk
of delirium, according to the study published in the January issue
of the journal
Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
The findings suggest that the contact precautions themselves may
not cause delirium, the researchers said.
"Patients in our study who were placed on contact precautions later in their hospitalization were generally sicker than those who were on contact precautions from the outset," study leader Dr. Hannah Day said in a journal news release. "So it's possible that the underlying illness rather than the precautions themselves is responsible for the association with delirium," she explained.
"Regardless of cause, we hope clinicians will view a move to isolation as a marker for increased risk of delirium and take appropriate precautions," Day added.
The researchers said patients on contact precautions should be
informed about the reasons for and the goals of the intervention in
order to help them accept the situation. Health care workers need
to monitor medications and do their best not to interrupt patients'
sleep patterns, and isolation rooms should have clocks, calendars
and other objects that can help prevent sensory deprivation among
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about
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