Delirium is sudden severe confusion due to rapid changes in brain function that occur with physical or mental illness.
Acute confusional state; Acute brain syndrome
Delirium is most often caused by physical or mental illness, and is usually temporary and reversible. Many disorders cause delirium. Often, the conditions are ones that do not allow the brain to get oxygen or other substances.
The goal of treatment is to control or reverse the cause of the symptoms. Treatment depends on the condition causing delirium. The person may need to stay in the hospital for a short time.
Stopping or changing medications that worsen confusion, or that are not necessary, may improve mental function. After asking about your medical history, your doctor will discuss medicines and substances that can worsen confusion, such as alcohol.
Disorders that contribute to confusion should be treated. These may include:
Treating the conditions that cause delirium can reduce its risk. In hospitalized patients, avoiding sedatives, prompt treatment of metabolic disorders and infections, and using reality orientation programs will reduce the risk of delirium in those at high risk.
Smith JP, Seirafi J. Delirium and dementia. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al., eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2013:chap 104.
Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.