Delirium may cause rapid cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease

May 04, 2009

Alzheimer's disease patients who develop delirium, a sudden state of severe confusion and disorientation, are significantly more likely to experience rapid cognitive decline than Alzheimer's patients who didn't experience delirium, according to research published in the May 5, 2009, print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"Delirium is a potentially preventable condition," said study author Tamara G. Fong, MD, PhD, with Harvard Medical School in Boston, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Hopefully future studies can determine whether preventing delirium may improve or delay in Alzheimer's disease patients."

For the study researchers tested the memory, thinking, and concentration skills of 408 Alzheimer's disease patients at the beginning of the study and every six months for at least a year and a half. During that time, 72 of the study participants developed delirium.

The study found that the rate of was three times faster in Alzheimer's patients who had an episode of delirium compared to those who did not. "Our study suggests that over 12 months, Alzheimer's disease patients who become delirious experience the equivalent of a 18-month decline in thinking and memory skills compared to those who do not experience delirium," said Fong.

Among patients who developed delirium, the average decline on was 2.5 points per year at the beginning of the study, but after an episode of delirium there was further decline to an average of 4.9 points per year.

Delirium often follows a medical disturbance or complication, such as infection, medication side effects or surgery. It's estimated that delirium occurs in up to 89 percent of Alzheimer's disease patients during hospitalization. Fong says that delirium in elderly patients should be avoided for many other reasons. "For example, delirium greatly increases the risk of serious complications in hospitalized patients," she said. "Alzheimer's patients need to be monitored more closely for delirium, and prevention strategies could be used such as avoiding medications that have delirium as a potential side effect and treating patients as outpatients where possible to avoid hospitalization."

Source: American Academy of Neurology (news : web)

Explore further: Study finds potential genetic link between epilepsy and neurodegenerative disorders

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Education protects against pre-Alzheimer's memory loss

Oct 20, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. – People with more education and more mentally demanding occupations may have protection against the memory loss that precedes Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published in the October 21, 2008, ...

Recommended for you

Molecular basis of age-related memory loss explained

17 hours ago

From telephone numbers to foreign vocabulary, our brains hold a seemingly endless supply of information. However, as we are getting older, our ability to learn and remember new things declines. A team of ...

The neurochemistry of addiction

18 hours ago

We've all heard the term "addictive personality," and many of us know individuals who are consistently more likely to take the extra drink or pill that puts them over the edge. But the specific balance of ...

Study examines blood markers, survival in patients with ALS

Jul 21, 2014

The blood biomarkers serum albumin and creatinine appear to be associated with survival in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and may help define prognosis in patients after they are diagnosed with the fatal ...

User comments : 0