The diagnosis, prevalence and outcome of delirium in a cohort of older people with mental health problems on general hospital wards

Whittamore, Kathy H. and Goldberg, Sarah E. and Gladman, John R.F. and Bradshaw, Lucy E. and Jones, Rob G. and Harwood, Rowan H. (2013) The diagnosis, prevalence and outcome of delirium in a cohort of older people with mental health problems on general hospital wards. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 29 (1). pp. 32-40. ISSN 0885-6230

[img] PDF - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Available under Licence Creative Commons Attribution.
Download (201kB)



older person;delirium;Delirium Rating Scale;validity;prognosis;diagnosis;general hospital


This paper aimed to measure the prevalence and outcomes of delirium for patients over 70 admitted to a general hospital for acute medical care and to assess the validity of the Delirium Rating Scale-Revised-98 (DRS-R-98) in this setting.


Prospective study in a British acute general hospital providing sole emergency medical services for its locality. We screened consecutive patients over 70 with an unplanned emergency hospital admission and recruited a cohort of 249 patients likely to have mental health problems. They were assessed for health status at baseline and followed over 6 months. A sub-sample of 93 participants was assessed clinically for delirium.


27% (95% confidence interval (CI) 23–31) of all older medical patients admitted to hospital had DRS-diagnosed delirium, and 41% (95% CI 37–45) had dementia (including 19% with co-morbid delirium and dementia). Compared with clinician diagnosis, DRS-R-98 sensitivity was at least 0.75, specificity 0.71. Compared with reversible cognitive impairment, sensitivity was at least 0.50, specificity 0.67. DRS-diagnosed delirium was associated with cognitive impairment, mood, behavioural and psychological symptoms, activities of daily living, and number of drugs prescribed, supporting construct validity. Of those with DRS-diagnosed delirium, 37% died within 6 months (relative risk 1.4, 95% CI 0.97–2.2), 43% had reversible cognitive impairment, but only 25% had clinically important recovery in activities of daily living. Behavioural and psychological symptoms were common and mostly resolved, but new symptoms frequently developed.


Delirium is common. Some, but not all, features are reversible. DRS-R-98 has reasonable validity in populations where co-morbid dementia is prevalent. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Item Type: Article
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham UK Campus > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Wahid, Ms. Haleema
Date Deposited: 14 Apr 2014 07:50
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2016 16:46

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View