Non-Pharmacological Strategies Treat, Prevent Delirium

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Non-Pharmacological Strategies Treat, Prevent Delirium
Non-Pharmacological Strategies Treat, Prevent Delirium

HealthDay News — Non-pharmacological treatments for delirium are available and beneficial, according to a review published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The researchers, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, reviewed 14 studies that assessed the use of drug-free strategies to reduce delirium in older patients at 12 hospitals around the world. Those methods included proper nutrition and hydration, adequate sleep, daily exercise, activities to improve thinking and memory, and telling patients where they are, and the date and time, every day.

These techniques appeared to reduce patients' odds of delirium and falls. They also led to shorter hospital stays, Tammy Hshieh, MD, of the hospital's Division of Aging and the Aging Brain Center, said in a hospital news release. "Delirium can be the source of anxiety for many patients and their families and often they wish that there was a pill that would make the patient's symptoms go away," Hshieh added. "Our study demonstrates that there are effective strategies for preventing delirium and treating patients that don't rely on medications."

It's estimated that 29 to 64% of elderly hospital patients suffer delirium, but the condition is likely underdiagnosed, the researchers added. They estimate that drug-free prevention methods could prevent one million cases of delirium a year in the United States, and save Medicare $10 billion annually.


  1. Hshieh T et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2015; doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7779.
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