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Postoperative delirium linked to longer-term cognitive decline

Publish Date: 7/10/2012

Study results published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggest that patients who develop delirium after they undergo cardiac surgery often experience short-term and longer-term cognitive impairment. Based on a study involving 225 patients aged 60 years and older who were scheduled for coronary-artery bypass graft surgery or valve replacement, 103 patients (46%) developed delirium postoperatively.1 Patients with delirium had a larger decline in cognitive function after surgery than those without delirium and had significantly lower postoperative function than those without delirium at one month and at one year after surgery.1

The study highlights the need to pay closer attention to delirium and cognitive status during hospitalization, as delirium should not be viewed as a short-term disorder. Health care professionals should know risk factors for delirium in patients undergoing cardiac surgery and preventative measures to help stop the development of delirium. In light of the longer-term cognitive effects, closer monitoring after discharge of patients who develop delirium may be needed.

  1. Postop Delirium Tied to Long-term Cognitive Impairment. Medscape Medical News. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/766882. Accessed July 9, 2012.

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