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Delirium Increases Risk for Subsequent Death, Dementia in Older Adults

Dose-response association seen with higher risk for each additional delirium episode

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 2, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Delirium is a strong risk factor for death and incident dementia among older adult patients, according to a study published online March 27 in The BMJ.

Emily H. Gordon, M.B.B.S, Ph.D., from the University of Queensland in Woolloongabba, Australia, and colleagues examined the association between delirium and incident dementia among older adult patients. The analysis included matched delirium-no delirium pairs (55,211 pairs) identified from hospitalized patients (aged 65 years and older) treated between July 2001 and March 2020 and followed for more than five years.

The researchers found that patients with delirium had a higher risk for death (hazard ratio, 1.39) and higher risk for incident dementia (subdistribution hazard ratio, 3.00) than patients without delirium. This association was stronger in men. Each additional episode of delirium was associated with a further increased risk for dementia (subdistribution hazard ratio, 1.20).

“While our results are consistent with the hypothesis that delirium might play a causative part in dementia, they are not conclusive owing to the fundamental limitations of observational studies in determining causality. Nevertheless, the results of this study provide valuable insights because prospective randomized controlled trials are unlikely to be conducted,” the authors write. “Delirium is a factor that could triple a person’s risk of dementia. Therefore, delirium prevention and treatment are opportunities to reduce dementia burden globally.”

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