Postoperative delirium: why, what, and how to confront it at your institution


Purpose of review: The current article reviews the importance of postoperative delirium (POD), focusing on the older surgical population, and summarizes the best-practice guidelines about POD prevention and treatment which have been published within the last several years. We also describe our local experience with implementing a perioperative delirium risk stratification and prevention pathway, and review implementation science principles which others may find useful as they move toward risk stratification and prevention in their own institutions.

Recent findings: There are few areas of consensus, backed by strong experimental data, in POD best-practice guidelines. Most guidelines recommend preoperative cognitive screening, nonpharmacologic delirium prevention measures, and avoidance of deliriogenic medications. The field of implementation science offers strategies for closing the evidence-practice gap, which we supplement with lessons learned from our own experience implementing a perioperative delirium risk stratification and prevention pathway.

Summary: POD continues to be a serious perioperative complication commonly experienced by older adults. Growing appreciation of its prognostic implications and evidence behind multidisciplinary, collaborative, and focused prevention strategies rooted in implementation science have prompted several major groups to issue consensus guidelines. Adopting best practices POD risk stratification and prevention pathways will improve perioperative care for older adults.

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