Delirium : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Acute confusional state, Acute brain syndrome

Definition

Delirium is sudden severe confusion and rapid changes in brain function that occur with physical or mental illness.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Delirium is most often caused by physical or mental illness and is usually temporary and reversible. Many disorders cause delirium, including conditions that deprive the brain of oxygen or other substances.

Causes include:

  • Drug abuse
  • Infections such as urinary tract infections or pneumonia (in people who already have brain damage from stroke or dementia)
  • Poisons
  • Fluid/electrolyte or acid/base disturbances

Patients with more severe brain injuries are more likely to get delirium from another illness.

Pictures & Images

Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system

The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system includes all peripheral nerves.


Review Date : 2/13/2008
Reviewed By : Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Departments of Anatomy & Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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