Patient Care

Delirium, Falls Reduced by Nonpharmacological Intervention


Clinical question: Are multicomponent, nonpharmacological interventions effective in decreasing delirium and falls?

Background: Delirium is prevalent among elderly hospitalized patients and is associated with increased morbidity, length of stay, healthcare costs, and risk of institutionalization. Multicomponent nonpharmacologic interventions have been used to prevent incident delirium in the elderly, but data regarding their effectiveness and impact on preventing poor outcomes are lacking.

Study design: Systematic literature review and meta-analysis.

Setting: Review of medical databases from Jan. 1, 1999, to Dec. 31, 2013.

Synopsis: Fourteen studies were included involving 4,267 elderly patients from 12 acute medical and surgical sites from around the world. There was a 53% reduction in delirium incidence associated with multicomponent, nonpharmacological interventions (OR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.38-0.58). The odds of falling were 62% lower among intervention patients compared with controls (2.79 vs. 7.05 falls per 1,000 patient-days). The intervention group also showed a decrease in length of stay, with a mean difference of -0.16 (95% CI, -0.97 to 0.64) days and a 5% lower chance of institutionalization (95% CI, 0.71 to 1.26); however, the differences were not statistically significant.

Although the small number and heterogeneity of the studies included limited the analysis, the use of nonpharmacologic interventions appears to be a low-risk, low-cost strategy to prevent delirium. The challenge for the hospitalist in developing a nonpharmacological protocol is to determine which interventions to include; the study did not look at which interventions were most effective.

Bottom line: The use of multicomponent nonpharmacological interventions in older patients can lower the risk of delirium and falls.

Citation: Hshieh TT, Yue J, Oh E, et al. Effectiveness of multicomponent nonpharmacological delirium interventions: a meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):512-520.

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