Postoperative Delirium in the Elderly Surgical Patient

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Delirium is a common complication in the geriatric population following cardiac and noncardiac procedures. Postoperative delirium is a significant financial burden on the United States health care system and is independently associated with prolonged hospital stay, increased risk of early and long term mortality, increased physical dependence, and an increased rate of nursing home placement. The Confusion Assessment Method (CAM) is a bedside rating scale developed to assist nonpsychiatrically trained clinicians in the rapid and accurate diagnosis of delirium. The CAM has been adapted for use in ventilated intensive care unit (ICU) patients in the form of the CAM-ICU. The onset of delirium involves an interaction between predisposing and precipitating risk factors for delirium. The mainstay of delirium management is prevention. The approach involves control or elimination of modifiable risk factors. It is controversial whether anesthetic technique determines delirium. However, important modifiable risk factors under the anesthesiologist's control include adequate postoperative pain management, careful drug selection, and embracing and participating in a multidisciplinary care model for these complicated patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-464
Number of pages14
JournalAnesthesiology clinics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Aged cognition disorders
  • Delirium
  • Elderly
  • Postoperative complications/diagnosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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