PURPOSE: Delirium is a common and distressing syndrome seen in patients with advanced cancer. Behavioral manifestations of delirium, such as agitation, may result in medical intervention, stress to family caregivers, and inpatient hospice admission. The purpose of this study was to examine the frequency, characteristics, and presumed causes of delirium in patients with advanced cancer. DESCRIPTION OF STUDY: Records of all patients with cancer who were admitted to an inpatient hospice facility in 1995 were reviewed retrospectively (N = 210). Patients were classified as delirious based on the clinical judgment of the admitting physician. RESULTS: Delirium was the third most common reason for admission (20%). Male gender (P = .04) and the presence of a primary or metastatic brain tumor (P = .03) were significant risk factors for delirium, while advanced age and primary or metastatic liver, lung, or bone cancer were not. Resolution of the agitation, the most disruptive symptom of delirium, occurred in 69% of patients before death or discharge. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Delirium is common in hospice patients with cancer and is an important cause of family distress and increased cost of care. The recognition of early clinical signs and predisposing factors should facilitate prompt diagnosis. Appropriate intervention is usually successful in alleviating the most distressing symptoms of delirium.
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