Melatonin Ineffective at Preventing Delirium in Elderly Patients

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Melatonin supplements do not seem to have an effect on postoperative elderly patients for the prevention of delirium, according to research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Annemarieke de Jonghe, MD, of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and colleagues studied the effects of melatonin on elderly patients that underwent surgery for hip fracture and experienced delirium, a sudden and severe form of confusion due to the disruption of normal sleep-wake cycles.

It was previously believed that a lack of the hormone melatonin contributed to delirium, however there is little research exploring the possible benefits of a melatonin supplement.

Among the 378 patients, who were an average age of 84 years, the researchers observed no effect of melatonin on the incidence of delirium; however they did find that those who took the melatonin supplements were less likely to have delirium that lasted more than two days.

The researchers concluded that melatonin is not effective in preventing postoperative delirium in elderly patients, and have called for further research to be conducted on the effects of melatonin in other patient groups, including those in intensive care units. 

Elderly man in hospital bed
Elderly man in hospital bed

This article describes research conducted by Annemarieke de Jonghe, MD, of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and colleagues on the effects of melatonin in elderly patients with delirium.

Many older hospital patients experience the sudden, severe confusion known as delirium due to disruption of their normal sleep-wake cycle. The researchers found that melatonin supplements did not reduce delirium in seniors who had surgery for hip fractures. They also found that the average duration of delirium was the same for both groups of patients.

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