Is Delirium the Cognitive Harbinger of Frailty in Older Adults? A Review about the Existing Evidence


Frailty is a clinical syndrome defined by the age-related depletion of the individual’s homeostatic reserves, determining an increased susceptibility to stressors and disproportionate exposure to negative health changes. The physiological systems that are involved in the determination of frailty are mutually interrelated, so that when decline starts in a given system, implications may also regard the other systems. Indeed, it has been shown that the number of abnormal systems is more predictive of frailty than those of the abnormalities in any particular system. Delirium is a transient neurocognitive disorder, characterized by an acute onset and fluctuating course, inattention, cognitive dysfunction, and behavioral abnormalities, that complicates one out of five hospital admissions. Delirium is independently associated with the same negative outcomes of frailty and, like frailty, its pathogenesis is usually multifactorial, depending on complex inter-relationships between predisposing and precipitating factors. By definition, a somatic cause should be identified, or at least suspected, to diagnose delirium. Delirium and frailty potentially share multiple pathophysiologic mechanisms and pathways, meaning that they could be thought of as the two sides to the same coin. This review aims at summarizing the existing evidence, referring both to human and animal models, to postulate that delirium may represent the cognitive harbinger of a state of frailty in older persons experiencing an acute clinical event

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oaioai:doaj.org/article:15061fbb330a4590a971f39ca9835912Last time updated on 11/13/2017

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