A Community of Exceptional Nurses
Delirium is an acute change in consciousness that is accompanied by inattention and either a change in cognition or perceptual disturbance.1 Patients can have hyperactive delirium (agitation, restlessness, attempting to remove catheters, and/or emotional lability), hypoactive delirium (flat effect, withdrawal, apathy, lethargy, and/or decreased responsiveness), or a combination of both.1
Delirium affects up to 80% of ICU patients, and it is estimated that ICU costs associated with delirium equal between $4 billion and $16 billion annually in the US.2-6 This form of acute brain dysfunction is associated with increased length of ICU and hospital stays, time on the ventilator, mortality, and long-term neuropsychological deficits.7-11
Despite this high prevalence and negative outcomes, delirium in the ICU goes undetected and, thus, untreated in scores of patients.12-17 For many years, critical care nursing and medical teams have considered delirium to be a benign problem, often even saying, “It will clear when we get them out of the ICU.”
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