HealthDay News — Patients who have post-operative delirium are more likely to have worse outcomes, including lower quality of life, disability, or even death, according to a study published in JAMA Surgery.

Sharon Inouye, MD, MPH, director of the Aging Brain Center at the Institute for Aging Research in Boston and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues studied 566 patients, aged 70 and older, who didn’t suffer from dementia or delirium before they underwent major elective surgery. All were hospitalized for at least three days. Following their procedure, the researchers assessed the participants’ level of confusion or delirium.

The researchers found 8% of the patients experienced a major or life-threatening complication after surgery, requiring them to remain in the hospital for a longer period of time. Meanwhile, 24% of the patients developed delirium, which dramatically increased all negative outcomes after surgery, including extended hospital stays and hospital readmission within 30 days. Patients who had complications plus delirium after surgery had the highest rates of poor outcomes, the researchers noted.

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“Clinicians should be aware of the negative impact of delirium and look for ways to mitigate its effect on older patients in their care through use of preventative strategies,” first author Lauren Gleason, M.D., from the division of aging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said in a Harvard Medical School news release.


  1. Gleason LJ et al. JAMA Surg. 2015; doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2015.2606.