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Treating Delirium in the ICU

Delirium is an acute state of confusion that is accompanied by inattention, as well as cognitive and perceptual disturbances. Delirium can affect up to 80 percent of patients in a hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Nurses at the Saint Francis Medical Center ICU have recently started using the Confusion Assessment Method-ICU (CAM-ICU) to identify and treat delirium as early as possible.

Under this method, Saint Francis nurses assess for delirium upon admission to the ICU and routinely throughout the patient’s ICU stay. When a patient appears to be in a state of delirium, an automatic alert goes to the pharmacist, physical therapist and respiratory therapist. Immediate interventions such as review of the patient’s medications, early mobility and activity, maintaining a balanced sleep-wake cycle or waning of the ventilator as early as possible can help identify causes of delirium.

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