Anticholinergic Exposure during Rehabilitation: Cognitive and Physical Function Outcomes in Patients with Delirium Superimposed on Dementia

Ann Kolanowski, Jacqueline Mogle, Donna M. Fick, Noll Campbell, Nikki Hill, Paula Mulhall, Liza Behrens, Elise Colancecco, Malaz Boustani, Linda Clare

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16 Scopus citations


Objectives We examined the association between anticholinergic medication exposure and subsequent cognitive and physical function in patients with delirium superimposed on dementia during rehabilitation. We also examined length of stay and discharge disposition by anticholinergic medication exposure. Design In this secondary analysis we used control group data from an ongoing randomized clinical trial. Setting/Participants Participants with delirium and dementia were enrolled at admission to post-acute care. These 99 participants had a mean age of 86.11 (±6.83) years; 67.6% were women; 98% were Caucasian; and 33% were positive for at least one APOE e4 allele. Measures We obtained daily measures of cognitive and physical function using: Digit Span; memory, orientation and attention items from the Montreal Cognitive Assessment; CLOX; the Confusion Assessment Method; and the Barthel Index. Anticholinergic medication exposure was measured weekly using the Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden Scale. Results Using multilevel models for time we found that greater use of clinically relevant anticholinergic medications in the previous week reduced cognitive and physical function, as measured by Digit Span Backwards and the Barthel index, in the current week. There was no effect of anticholinergic medication use on delirium severity, and APOE status did not moderate any outcomes. Greater use of clinically relevant anticholinergic medications was related to longer length of stay but not discharge disposition. Conclusions For vulnerable older adults, anticholinergic exposure represents a potentially modifiable risk factor for poor attention, working memory, physical function, and greater length of stay during rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1250-1258
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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