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01.03.2012 | Continuing Professional Development | Ausgabe 3/2012

Canadian Journal of Anesthesia/Journal canadien d'anesthésie 3/2012

Postoperative delirium: risk factors and management: Continuing Professional Development

Zeitschrift:
Canadian Journal of Anesthesia/Journal canadien d'anesthésie > Ausgabe 3/2012
Autoren:
PharmD, MD Alan J. Chaput, MD Gregory L. Bryson

Abstract

Purpose

Postoperative delirium often remains undiagnosed and therefore untreated. The purpose of this continuing professional development module is to identify patients at high risk of developing delirium following non-cardiac surgery and to provide tools to aid in the diagnosis of delirium at the bedside. Optimal prevention and treatment strategies are recommended.

Principal findings

Delirium is characterized by an acute onset and a fluctuating course, inattention, disorganized thinking and an altered level of consciousness, and occurs in up to 40% of patients in the perioperative period. The pathophysiology of delirium is multifactorial, but it is believed to be related to inflammation, altered neurotransmission, and stress in the patient who has had surgery. Acetylcholine and dopamine appear to play a significant role. There is an increased risk of a poor outcome in patients who develop delirium, including a longer hospital stay and death. Surgical and patient factors play a significant role in predicting who will subsequently develop delirium. Prevention is much more effective than treatment in the management of delirium. The most effective prevention strategies include proactive geriatric assessment and care of the patient on a geriatrics surgical ward as well as prophylactic low-dose antipsychotic agents. From an anesthetic perspective, evidence in some surgical populations would support the use of regional techniques and minimal sedation. If delirium develops, treatment with low-dose oral antipsychotics appears to be most effective.

Conclusions

Delirium is a serious condition that must be recognized early and treated promptly to minimize deleterious outcomes. In order to institute prevention strategies and treat the condition effectively when it occurs, the anesthesiologist must be vigilant in identifying patients at risk and in screening for this condition.

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