Study: Frail older adults experience higher rates of delirium after surgery

By Ed Adamczyk Contact the Author   |  Updated Jan. 26, 2018 at 11:57 AM
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Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Older adults who have elective surgery are twice as likely to experience delirium as older, not-as-frail patients, a Canadian study published Friday indicates.

Researchers at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital pinpointed frailty and cognitive impairment as risk factors for delirium.

Other risk factors included a history of smoking and use of psychotropic medications such as lithium for bipolar disorder, the authors said. Their research was published on Friday in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

"Chronological age from your birth date is not always an accurate assessment of how you've aged over your lifetime," said Dr. Jennifer Watt, lead author of the review. "This study highlights how common delirium is among older adults undergoing elective surgery, and the importance of geriatric syndromes, including frailty, in identifying older adults who may be at risk."

The research involved the examination of 41 studies involving over 9,000 patients, all 60 or over. Each had history of hypertension but no history of dementia. During the three-year study it was determined that one patient in six experienced delirium during follow-up. It also found that fewer examples of delirium were seen in patients with caregiver support, defined as having a spouse or a high number of visitors after surgery.

"Postoperative delirium is a common, yet preventable, complication experienced by older adults undergoing elective surgery," said Watt. "Understanding delirium risk factors may help clinicians, patients, and caregivers to target interventions aimed at lessening its burden."

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