Older adults who are frail are twice as likely to experience delirium following elective surgery than those of an older age, a study has found. Researchers found that a history of delirium, frailty and cognitive impairment are the risk factors most strongly associated with developing postoperative delirium. Previous research has found that frailty and cognitive impairment before surgery are associated with developing complications after surgery, but age is not. Other risk factors that are associated with developing postoperative delirium include smoking and the use of psychotropic medications, the researchers said. “Chronological age from your birth date is not always an accurate assessment of how you’ve aged over your lifetime,” said Jennifer Watt, from the St. Michael’s Hospital in Canada. “This study highlights how common delirium is among older adults undergoing elective surgery, and the importance of geriatric syndromes, including frailty, in identifying older adults who may be at risk,” Watt said.
For the study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the researchers examined 41 existing studies including more than 9,000 patients 60 years and older and reporting on postoperative delirium following elective surgery. They found that one in six older adults experience delirium following elective surgery. The patients who had caregiver support are also 30 per cent less likely to experience delirium following elective surgery than those who did not, they said.