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Diagnosing delirium
  1. Michael Philpot
  1. Correspondence to Dr M Philpot, Mental Health of Older Adults, Maudsley Hospital, 115 Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AZ, UK; mike.philpot{at}

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Delirium is a common and serious disorder of acute onset characterised by inattention, clouding of consciousness and other neuropsychiatric features. It is nearly always caused by a physical disorder such as infection, metabolic disturbance or trauma. The condition usually occurs in people whose brains are vulnerable or compromised in some way, and the prognosis can be poor unless it is treated promptly.1 Delirium is poorly identified in general, particularly if the symptom pattern is atypical or if an underlying physical cause is not readily identifiable. Symptoms fluctuate in intensity and overlap with those of dementia. Indeed, delirium …

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