HealthDay News — An episode of delirium is significantly associated with long-term cognitive decline in both surgical and nonsurgical patients, according to a meta-analysis published online July 13 in JAMA Neurology.

Terry E. Goldberg, Ph.D., from the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues conducted a systematic literature review and meta-analysis to investigate whether an episode of delirium is an independent risk factor for long-term cognitive decline.

Based on 24 identified studies (3,562 patients who experienced delirium and 6,987 controls), the researchers observed a significant association between delirium and long-term cognitive decline at least three months after the episode. The group that experienced delirium had worse cognition at the final time point across all studies. Duration of follow-up, number of covariates controlled, and baseline cognitive matching were significant sources of variance. Subgroup analyses and meta-regressions revealed similar predictors, suggesting that delirium may be a causative factor in cognitive decline.

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“From a public health standpoint, delirium represents a clear target to improve population health,” the authors write.

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