Delirium is characterised by confusion, inattentiveness, disorientation, illusions, hallucinations, agitation and in some instances autonomic nervous system overactivity.

While it may result from toxic or metabolic conditions or structural brain lesions, it is common in the terminal phase.

Medicines Information

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palliAGEDgp smartphone application (available as an app or as online content) Tasmanian Adult Palliative Care Formulary


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Therapeutic Guidelines: Palliative Care


  • Medicines (including those with anticholinergic activity) can contribute to cognitive effects, including delirium
  • Hypoactive delirium (where the person becomes slow and sleepy) can be just as distressing as hyperactive delirium, and is often misdiagnosed as depression or dementia
  • Look for causes of delirium that might be reversible and consider what treatments may be reasonable in the clinical setting, for instance could delirium be caused by: 
    • a urinary tract infection,
    • new medication,
    • dehydration, or
    • hypoxia?

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Page updated 18 September 2018