Two questions could help nurses diagnose delirium

The test takes 36 seconds and is correct 93 percent of the time.

By Stephen Feller

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Researchers have devised a two-question test that, when combined with another short test, correctly identifies delirium in older patients more than 90 percent of the time.

The goal was to create a quick test that can accurately indicate whether a patient has delirium. While the condition can be corrected if treated early, an overly complicated test wastes time.


"Delirium can be very costly and deadly -- and with high-risk patients, time matters," said Donna M. Fick, Distinguished Professor of Nursing and co-director of the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at Penn State, in a press release.

The Harvard-designed three-dimensional Confusion Assessment Method , or 3D-CAM, is reliable and only takes 3 minutes to administer but takes too long to set up, the researchers said.

The researchers tested questions with 201 patients, with a mean age of 84, and 42 of whom had been clinically diagnosed with delirium.

Researchers started with one question -- to recite the months of the year backwards -- but only achieved 83 percent accuracy with it. When also asked what day of the week it was, researchers found that delirium was correctly indicated 93 percent of the time.


During the test, 48 of the 201 patients were identified as delirious. The 6 false positives were discovered by later administering the 3D-CAM.

While the result is promising, Fick said the results of the study will need to be verified in with very large patient samples before the test can be recommended for daily use in medical facilities.

The study is published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

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