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Delirium

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

Open access

palliAGEDgp Smartphone application Tasmanian Adult Palliative Care Formulary

Therapeutics

Open access 

CareSearch Tasmanian Government Specialist Palliative Care Service

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Therapeutic Guidelines: Palliative Care

Remember

  • 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 30 November 2017