Delirium in Surgical Patients Under Intensive Care: Utility of Mental Status Examination

Nevin M. Katz, David P. Agle, Ralph G. Depalma, Jerome J. Decosse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


An abbreviated mental status examination was devised and used to study 35 surgical patients requiring a stay in the intensive care unit. Test scores of 24 normal patients fell within a narrow range with a mean of 9.0 (SD ± 0.8) without significant change in score with repeated testing. Nine delirious patients, demonstrating global cognitive impairment, had a mean test score of 2.4 (SD ± 1.0). These patients demonstrated serious and often lethal physiologic abnormalities, most commonly hypoxia or sepsis. Two patients with prominent hallucinations showed selective cognitive impairment in spatial orientation. Their test scores were normal and environmental factors such as sleep deprivation and monotony appeared prominent. Mental status testing is a practical means of accomplishing early detection and effective treatment of the causes of delirium in these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-313
Number of pages4
JournalArchives of Surgery
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1972
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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