Delirium primary COVID-19 symptom in many elderly ED patients, study suggests

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Out of 817 elderly patients with COVID-19 who went to the emergency department, 28 percent (226) had delirium upon arrival, according to a study published Nov. 19 in JAMA Network Open

Researchers evaluated patients age 65 and over who presented at the emergency department with COVID-19 across seven sites throughout the U.S. on or after March 13. In 16 percent (37) of patients with delirium, it was the primary complaint, and 37 percent (84) presented no other typical coronavirus symptoms such as fever or shortness of breath.

Delirium was also linked to worse outcomes, including intensive care unit stay and death. 

Potential risk factors associated with delirium include being over the age of 75, living in a nursing or assisted living home, and vision or hearing impairments, among others. 

"These findings suggest the clinical importance of including delirium on checklists of presenting symptoms and symptoms of COVID-19 that guide screening, testing and evaluation," the study said. 

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