Age Ageing. 2020 Aug 20:afaa189. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afaa189. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: Delirium is a frequent condition in hospitalized older patients and it usually has a negative prognostic value. A direct effect of SARS-COV-2 on the central nervous system (CNS) has been hypothesized.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the presence of delirium in older patients admitted for a suspected diagnosis of COVID-19 and its impact on in-hospital mortality.
SETTING AND SUBJECTS: 91 patients, aged 70-years and older, admitted to an acute geriatric ward in Northern Italy from March 8th to April 17th, 2020.
METHODS: COVID-19 cases were confirmed by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assay for SARS-Cov-2 RNA from nasal and pharyngeal swabs. Delirium was diagnosed by two geriatricians according to the DSM-V criteria. The number of chronic diseases was calculated among a pre-defined list of 60. The pre-disease Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS) was assessed at hospital admission.
RESULTS: Of the total sample, 39 patients died, 49 were discharged and 3 were transferred to ICU. Twenty-five patients (27.5%) had delirium. Seventy-two percent of patients with delirium died during hospitalization compared to 31.8% of those without delirium. In a multivariate logistic regression model adjusted for potential confounders, patients with delirium were four times more likely to die during hospital stay compared to those without delirium (OR = 3.98;95%CI = 1.05-17.28; p = 0.047).
CONCLUSIONS: Delirium is common in older patients with COVID-19 and strongly associated with in-hospital mortality. Regardless of causation, either due to a direct effect of SARS-COV-2 on the CNS or to a multifactorial cause, delirium should be interpreted as an alarming prognostic indicator in older people.