Purpose of review
Postoperative delirium (POD) is one of the most severe complications after surgery.
The consequences are dramatic: longer hospitalization, a doubling of mortality and almost all cases develop permanent, yet subtle, cognitive deficits specific to everyday life. Actually, no global guideline with standardized concepts of management exists. Advances in prevention, diagnosis and treatment can improve recognition and risk stratification of delirium and its consequences.
Management of POD is a multiprofessional approach and consists of different parts: First, the detection of high-risk patients with a validated tool, preventive nonpharmacological concepts and an intraoperative anesthetic management plan that is individualized to the older patient (e.g. avoiding large swings in blood pressure, vigilance in maintaining normothermia, ensuring adequate analgesia and monitoring of anesthetic depth). In addition to preventive standards, treatment and diagnostic concepts must also be available, both pharmaceutical and nonpharmacological.
Not every POD can be prevented. It is important to detect patients with high risk for POD and have standardized concepts of management. The most important predisposing risk factors are a higher age, preexisting cognitive deficits, multimorbidity and an associated prodelirious polypharmacy. In view of demographic change, the implementation of multidisciplinary approaches to pharmacological and nonpharmacological POD management is highly recommended.