Epidemiology

In the community, the prevalence of delirium increases dramatically with age, rising to 14 per cent in those aged 85 years and older, and is associated with age-related factors such as polypharmacy, visual impairment, structural brain disease, and diabetes. (11) There is no evidence that age alone is a risk factor for delirium. In studies of medical and surgical inpatients, the rates of delirium vary considerably (prevalence, 10-30 per cent; incidence, 4-53 per cent), probably because of methodological and population differences. Similar rates are also found in studies of acute psychogeriatric admissions. (12) Some patient groups, such as those with hip fractures, have consistently higher rates. Other at-risk populations, such as nursing-home residents, have received less systematic investigation, but the limited evidence suggests that they also have rates of delirium comparable to those found in elderly inpatients.

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