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By Juebin Huang, MD, PhD

Delirium is an acute, transient, usually reversible, fluctuating disturbance in attention, cognition, and consciousness level. Causes include almost any disorder or drug. Diagnosis is clinical, with laboratory and usually imaging tests to identify the cause. Treatment is correction of the cause and supportive measures.

Delirium may occur at any age but is more common among the elderly. At least 10% of elderly patients who are admitted to the hospital have delirium; 15 to 50% experience delirium at some time during hospitalization. Delirium is also common after surgery and among nursing home residents and ICU patients. When delirium occurs in younger people, it is usually due to drug use or a life-threatening systemic disorder.

Delirium is sometimes called acute confusional state or toxic or metabolic encephalopathy.

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* This is the Professional Version. *