The objective of the present study is to evaluate the association between the occurrence of delirium and the cognitive outcome in elderly subjects. Hospital files of 572 patients who underwent hip or knee replacement between 1998 and 2004 were examined. A sample of 90 elderly subjects (31 with evidence of post-operative delirium), non-demented at baseline, was screened for cognitive decline and dementia. Diagnosis of dementia was highly associated with the occurrence of delirium. The relative risk for the diagnosis of dementia among subjects with previous history of delirium, according to the IQcode screening, was 10.5 (95% CI: 3.3–33.2). Such patients had a significantly higher mean IQcode score (3.75) as compared to controls (3.1; p < 0.001). Cognitive functions most affected in these patients were memory, orientation and abstract thinking. We conclude that the occurrence of post-operative delirium in cognitively unimpaired elderly subjects is associated with a worse cognitive outcome and an increased risk of dementia.
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