Evidence-based treatment of delirium in patients with cancer
Delirium is the most common neuropsychiatric complication seen in patients with cancer, and it is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Increased health care costs, prolonged hospital stays, and long-term cognitive decline are other well-recognized adverse outcomes of delirium. Improved recognition of delirium and early treatment are important in diminishing such morbidity. There has been an increasing number of studies published in the literature over the last 10 years regarding delirium treatment as well as prevention. Antipsychotics, cholinesterase inhibitors, and alpha-2 agonists are the three groups of medications that have been studied in randomized controlled trials in different patient populations. In patients with cancer, the evidence is most clearly supportive of short-term, low-dose use of antipsychotics for controlling the symptoms of delirium, with close monitoring for possible adverse effects, especially in older patients with multiple medical comorbidities. Nonpharmacologic interventions also appear to have a beneficial role in the treatment of patients with cancer who have or are at risk for delirium. This article presents evidence-based recommendations based on the results of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic studies of the treatment and prevention of delirium.