Prevalence, management and outcomes of unrecognized delirium in a National Sample of 1,493 older emergency department patients: how many were sent home and what happened to them?

Jacques S. Lee, Tiffany Tong, Mark Chignell, Mary C. Tierney, Judah Goldstein, Debra Eagles, Jeffrey J. Perry, Andrew McRae, Eddy Lang, Darren Hefferon, Louise Rose, Alex Kiss, Bjug Borgundvaag, Shelley McLeod, Don Melady, Valérie Boucher, Marie Josée Sirois, Marcel Émond

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15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Retrospective studies estimate Emergency Department (ED) delirium recognition at <20%; few prospective studies have assessed delirium recognition and outcomes for patients with unrecognized delirium. OBJECTIVES: To prospectively measure delirium recognition by ED nurses and physicians, document their confidence in diagnosis and disposition, actual dispositions, and patient outcomes. METHODS: Prospective observational study of people ≥65 years. We assessed delirium using the Confusion Assessment Method, then asked ED staff if the patient had delirium, confidence in their assessment, if the patient could be discharged, and contacted patients 1 week postdischarge. We report proportions and 95% confidence intervals (Cls). RESULTS: We enrolled 1,493 participants; mean age was 77.9 years; 49.2% were female, 79 (5.3%, 95% CI 4.2-6.5%) had delirium. ED nurses missed delirium in 43/78 cases (55.1%, 95% CI 43.4-66.4%). Nurses considered 12/43 (27.9%) patients with unrecognized delirium safe to discharge. Median confidence in their delirium diagnosis for patients with unrecognized delirium was 7.0/10. Physicians missed delirium in 10/20 (50.0%, 95% CI 27.2-72.8) cases and considered 2/10 (20.0%) safe to discharge. Median confidence in their delirium diagnosis for patients with unrecognized delirium was 8.0/10. Fifteen patients with unrecognized delirium were sent home: 6.7% died at 1 week follow-up vs. none in those with recognized delirium and 1.1% in the rest of the cohort. CONCLUSION: Delirium recognition by nurses and physicians was sub-optimal at ~50% and may be associated with increased mortality. Research should explore root causes of unrecognized delirium, and novel strategies to systematically improve delirium recognition and patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberafab214
JournalAge and Ageing
Volume51
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2022

Keywords

  • delirium
  • Emergency department
  • geriatrics
  • older people
  • recognition

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