Delirium is fairly common, yet often missed, in advanced cancer patients who visit emergency departments, a new study says.
Delirium is a serious disturbance in thinking and awareness, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
Researchers looked for delirium in 243 advanced cancer patients seen at an emergency department. The patients were between the ages of 19 and 89. The researchers found that 22 patients — 9 percent — had delirium.
Eighteen had mild delirium and four had moderate delirium. Ten percent of the 99 patients older than 65 had delirium, compared with eight percent of the 144 patients younger than 65. This suggests that advanced cancer patients of all ages should be considered at high risk for delirium, the researchers said.
ER doctors failed to diagnose delirium in nine (41 percent) of the patients with delirium, the study said.
The findings were published online July 25 in the journal Cancer.
“We found evidence of delirium in one of every ten patients with advanced cancer who are treated in the emergency department,” study leader Dr. Knox Todd, who’s with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said in a journal news release.
“Given that we could only study patients who were able to give consent to enter our study, even 10 percent is likely to be a low estimate,” he said.
“We also identified many psychoactive medications that could have contributed to delirium, and sharing this information with treating oncologists may help them avoid such complications in the next patient they treat,” Todd added.
The study shows the important role emergency department doctors can play in monitoring the quality of cancer patient care and their potential role in preventing complications of cancer treatment, the researchers said.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about delirium.