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A new study from the University of Queensland has found every episode of delirium increased the chances of developing dementia by 20 per cent.

Patients with delirium three times more likely to develop dementia

A new study has found older patients who experience delirium are three times more likely to develop dementia.

Researchers from the University of Queensland also found that every episode of delirium increased the chance of developing dementia by 20 per cent.

One of the researchers, Professor Ruth Hubbard, said both were "strongly linked".

"Delirium is an acute confusional state which particularly impacts older people and can have long-term detrimental effects on patients," Professor Hubbard said.

"Our study found that it is also strongly linked to dementia."

Around 10 to 18 per cent of Australians aged 65 and over have delirium at the time of admission to hospital, and a further two to eight per cent develop delirium during their hospital stay.

Delirium causes an estimated 10.6 per cent of dementia in Australia.

According to a study, the total costs of delirium were estimated to be $8.8bn. Dementia attributable to delirium accounted for $4.5bn of the total costs.

Despite being a common condition, delirium still remains under-recognised, poorly understood, and not adequately managed.

Researchers analysed a cohort of more than 110,000 patients from NSW hospitals over five years.

Among the participants, 58 per cent died, and 17 per cent developed incident dementia in the follow-up period.

Individuals with delirium showed a 39 per cent increased risk of mortality and a three-fold higher risk of developing dementia than other individuals.

Patients who experienced at least one delirium episode had a 10 per cent increased death risk.

Lead author Dr Emily Gordon said more than 55,000 patients who had experienced delirium were compared to patients who had not experienced delirium.

"We paired the patients by matching certain criteria such as age, sex, frailty, reason for being in hospital, length of stay in hospital and length of stay in the intensive care unit," Dr Gordon said.

"This was done to ensure we got as close as possible to isolating the impact of delirium on dementia risk, and to ignore the effects of other factors known to impact dementia, such as older age."

The researchers then followed both cohorts for five years to see if they were eventually diagnosed with dementia.

Dr Gordon said the finding highlighted the need for delirium prevention and care, emphasising that if delirium is reduced, dementia may be as well.

"Up to 40 per cent of delirium cases are preventable, and treatments are readily available.

"Measures to prevent delirium include keeping patients well nourished, hydrated and mobile."

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  1. I notice nothing was mentioned about the causes of delirium. Has there been an investigation into UTI’s being neglected? It is my understanding that by the time an ambulance has been called the patient is fully delirious.

    Goes to follow that quick diagnosis of UTI’s & treatment would reduce cases of delirium.

  2. Telkom University

    What is the correlation between episodes of delirium and the likelihood of developing dementia, according to University of Queensland researchers? Regard Telkom University

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