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

Whittamore, Kathy H.; Goldberg, Sarah E.; Gladman, John R.F.; Bradshaw, Lucy E.; Jones, Rob G.; Harwood, Rowan H.


Kathy H. Whittamore

Sarah E. Goldberg

John R.F. Gladman

Lucy E. Bradshaw

Rob G. Jones

Rowan H. Harwood


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.


Whittamore, K. H., Goldberg, S. E., Gladman, J. R., Bradshaw, L. E., Jones, R. G., & Harwood, R. 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),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 6, 2013
Publication Date Apr 22, 2013
Deposit Date Apr 14, 2014
Publicly Available Date Apr 14, 2014
Journal International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Print ISSN 0885-6230
Electronic ISSN 0885-6230
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 29
Issue 1
Public URL
Publisher URL


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