A common post-surgery complication that can be prevented

Delirium is a condition that generally affects older people post-surgery. Patients show signs of confusion, hallucinations and grogginess. Delirium can be confused with depression or dementia.

Professor Victoria Traynor and Professor Val Wilson from the University of Wollongong (UOW) School of Nursing, are leading a research project to improve care for hospital patients experiencing post-operative delirium.

In 2019, their project was one of nine translational research projects to receive state funding to improve Aboriginal and elderly health and provide more efficient patient care.

“Delirium is an acute but reversible state of confusion which presents as agitation and reduced alertness. Untreated and undetected it can lead to many health problems including falls and longer stays in hospital,” said Professor Traynor.

As part of World Delirium Awareness Day on Wednesday 11 March, the researchers are launching educational videos demonstrating how to screen for delirium.

“We will be at Wollongong Hospital on 11 March to raise awareness of delirium and how to prevent it,” added Professor Traynor.

This year’s theme for World Delirium Awareness Day is “Let’s stop delirium before it starts”.

“More than 100,000 people are affected by delirium each year. It can be caused by an underlying condition like a urinary tract infection or dehydration, both of which can be treated if detected,” said Professor Traynor.

“It’s also really important that calming strategies are used by nursing staff and family so a patient’s distress post-surgery can be minimised.”

Delirium has been known about for thousands of years, but it’s still poorly understood by brain specialists and often misdiagnosed.

Mortality rates in sick people double with delirium as well increasing the risk factor for onset of dementia and accelerated cognitive decline.

“With better education and awareness of the condition and improved detection rates post-surgery, practitioners can better treat delirium and prevent associated health problems,” added Professor Traynor.

Watch the video

Media contact

Louise Negline, Communications Coordinator

t: 4221 4702 m: 0417 044 867 e: louisenegline@ihmri.org.au

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