Delirium May Signal COVID-19 in Older Adults- JAMA Study
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Delirium is common among older emergency department (ED) patients, is associated with high morbidity and mortality, and frequently goes unrecognized. Anecdotal evidence has described atypical presentations of COVID-19 in older adults; however, the frequency of and outcomes associated with delirium in older ED patients with COVID-19 infection have not been well described.

This multicenter cohort study aimed to determine how frequently older adults with COVID-19 present to the ED with delirium and their associated hospital outcomes. COVID-19 was diagnosed by positive nasal swab for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (99% of cases) or classic radiological findings (1% of cases). The primary outcome was delirium as identified from the medical record according to a validated record review approach.

-- A total of 817 older patients with COVID-19 were included, of whom 386 were male, 493 were White, 215 were Black, and 54 were Hispanic or Latinx.

-- The mean age of patients was 77.7 years. Of included patients, 226 had delirium at presentation, and delirium was the sixth most common of all presenting symptoms and signs.

-- Among the patients with delirium, 37 (16%) had delirium as a primary symptom and 84 (37%) had no typical COVID-19 symptoms or signs, such as fever or shortness of breath.

-- Factors associated with delirium were age older than 75 years, living in a nursing home or assisted living, prior use of psychoactive medication, vision impairment, hearing impairment, stroke, and Parkinson disease.

-- Delirium was associated with intensive care unit stay and death.

Conclusively, in this cohort study of 817 older adults with COVID-19 presenting to US emergency departments, delirium was common and often was seen without other typical symptoms or signs. In addition, delirium was associated with poor hospital outcomes and death. These findings suggest the clinical importance of including delirium on checklists of presenting signs and symptoms of COVID-19 that guide screening, testing, and evaluation.