Article Text

Download PDFPDF
A comparison of neuropsychiatric and cognitive profiles in delirium, dementia, comorbid delirium-dementia and cognitively intact controls


Purpose Delirium and dementia have overlapping features that complicate differential diagnosis. Delirium symptoms overshadow dementia symptoms when they co-occur, but delirium phenomenology in comorbid cases has not been compared to both conditions alone.

Methods Consecutive adults with DSM-IV delirium, dementia, comorbid delirium-dementia and cognitively intact controls were assessed using the Revised Delirium Rating Scale (DRS-R98) and Cognitive Test for Delirium (CTD).

Results Delirium and comorbid delirium-dementia groups had comparable DRS-R98 and CTD total scores, which were greater than in dementia or control groups. On the DRS-R98, multiple non-cognitive symptoms, inattention and disorientation were more severe in delirium groups compared with dementia-alone. Patients with dementia differed from both delirium groups on the CTD test of attention. Spatial span backwards was significantly lower in all patients with cognitive impairment (delirium, comorbid delirium-dementia, dementia alone) compared to controls, whereas spatial span forwards distinguished delirium groups from dementia.

Conclusions Delirium phenomenology is similar with or without comorbid dementia. A wide range of neuropsychiatric symptoms distinguish delirium from dementia. Spatial span forward is disproportionately diminished in delirium suggesting usefulness as a differentiating screening test.

  • Delirium
  • dementia
  • phenomenology
  • assessment
  • diagnosis
  • cognition

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles

  • Editorial commentary
    Michael Philpot