A new study has found that a simple screening tool can identify patients at risk of postoperative delirium (POD) after orthopedic surgery, and a prevention program can help improve staff education and outcomes.

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“In an aging society, it is very important to develop and implement a strategy for POD prevention to ensure that aging patients are treated as safely and effectively as possible,” wrote Jung-Yeon Choi of Seoul (South Korea) National University Bundang Hospital and coauthors. The study was published in BMC Geriatrics.

To determine how to better identify and treat high-risk patients for POD after orthopedic surgery, the researchers led a retrospective cohort study that included an intervention group of participants who were aged at least 65 years (n = 275) and a control group from a year prior (n = 274). Patients in the intervention group had their risk of delirium assessed and categorized using a simple screening tool, and those deemed at risk were entered into a multicomponent delirium prevention program.

Of the 275 patients in the intervention group, 144 required screening for delirium. Ninety-nine were classified as low risk, 29 were classified as high risk, and 16 missed the screening. Fifty-three additional patients were classified as high risk because they were aged 80 years or older. During the study, 17 participants experienced POD, 16 of whom were classified as high risk. In regard to estimating POD risk, the sensitivity and specificity of the delirium screening tool were 94.1% and 72.7%, respectively. Incidence rates of POD were 10.2% in the control group and 6.2% in the intervention group.

The authors noted their study’s limitations, including its design as a retrospective review of medical records rather than a prospective randomized controlled trial. In addition, because it was conducted in just one teaching hospital, they deemed it “not possible to determine the generalizability and long-term effect of our findings.”

The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Choi JY et al. BMC Geriatr. 2019 Oct 26. doi: 10.1186/s12877-019-1303-z.