Delirium in critically ill patients.

Published in Handbook of Clinical Neurology, 2017

Recommended citation: Slooter AJC, Van De Leur RR, Zaal IJ. Delirium in critically ill patients. Handb Clin Neurol. 2017;141:449–466.

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Delirium is common in critically ill patients and associated with increased length of stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) and long-term cognitive impairment. The pathophysiology of delirium has been explained by neuroinflammation, an aberrant stress response, neurotransmitter imbalances, and neuronal network alterations. Delirium develops mostly in vulnerable patients (e.g., elderly and cognitively impaired) in the throes of a critical illness. Delirium is by definition due to an underlying condition and can be identified at ICU admission using prediction models. Treatment of delirium can be improved with frequent monitoring, as early detection and subsequent treatment of the underlying condition can improve outcome. Cautious use or avoidance of benzodiazepines may reduce the likelihood of developing delirium. Nonpharmacologic strategies with early mobilization, reducing causes for sleep deprivation, and reorientation measures may be effective in the prevention of delirium. Antipsychotics are effective in treating hallucinations and agitation, but do not reduce the duration of delirium. Combined pain, agitation, and delirium protocols seem to improve the outcome of critically ill patients and may reduce delirium incidence.