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Vol. 23, No. 6, 2007
Issue release date: May 2007
Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord 2007;23:290–294

Subtle Attentional Deficits in the Absence of Dementia Are Associated with an Increased Risk of Post-Operative Delirium

Lowery D.P. · Wesnes K. · Ballard C.G.
University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

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Background: Previously, key studies of the risk profile for post-surgical delirium have focused on general medical and non-elective patients, few have examined elective cohorts. Accurate prediction is imperative for clinical trials and prevention strategies. Aims/Hypothesis: Our hypothesis was that subtle pre-operative impairments of attention will be associated with risk of post-operative delirium. Method: A prospective study evaluating pre- and post-operative neuropsychological performance in older (≧70) consecutive elective admissions for orthopaedic surgery, and free of dementia (n = 100) was initiated in a general medical hospital. Results: Pre-operative attentional deficits were closely associated with delirium. Patients who developed post-surgical delirium had significantly slower mean reaction times (p ≤ 0.011) and greater variability of reaction time (p = 0.017). A 4- to 5-fold increased risk of delirium was observed for people one standard deviation above the sample means on these variables. Conclusions: The present study describes a measurement of attentional performance which could form the basis of a neuropsychological marker of delirium.

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Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in goverment regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug.
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