Background: There is an unmet public health need to understand better the relationship between baseline cognitive function, the occurrence and severity of delirium, and subsequent cognitive decline. Our aim was to quantify the relationship between baseline cognition and delirium and follow-up cognitive impairment.
Methods: We did a prospective longitudinal study in a stable representative community sample of adults aged 70 years or older who were registered with a Camden-based general practitioner in the London Borough of Camden (London, UK). Participants were recruited by invitation letters from general practice lists or by direct recruitment of patients from memory clinics or patients recently discharged from secondary care. We quantified baseline cognitive function with the modified Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status. In patients who were admitted to hospital, we undertook daily assessments of delirium using the Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale (MDAS). We estimated the association of pre-admission baseline cognitive function with delirium prevalence, severity, and duration. We assessed subsequent cognitive function 2 years after baseline recruitment using the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status. Regression models were adjusted by age, sex, education, illness severity, and frailty.
Findings: We recruited 1510 participants (median age 77 [IQR 73-82], 57% women) between March, 2017, and October, 2018. 209 participants were admitted to hospital across 371 episodes (1999 person-days of assessment). Better baseline cognition was associated with a lower risk of delirium (odds ratio 0·63, 95% CI 0·45 to 0·89) and with less severe delirium (-1·6 MDAS point, 95% CI -2·6 to -0·7). Individuals with high baseline cognition (baseline Z score +2·0 SD) had demonstrable decline even without delirium (follow-up Z score +1·2 SD). However, those with a high delirium burden had an even larger absolute decline of 2·2 SD in Z score (follow-up Z score -0·2). Once individuals had more than 2 days of moderate delirium, the rates of death over 2 years were similar regardless of baseline cognition; a better baseline cognition no longer conferred any mortality benefit.
Interpretation: A higher baseline cognitive function is associated with a good prognosis with regard to likelihood and severity of delirium. However, those with a high baseline cognition and with delirium had the highest degree of cognitive decline, a change similar to the decline observed in individuals with a high amyloid burden in other cohorts. Older people with a healthy baseline cognitive function who develop delirium stand to lose the most after delirium. This group could benefit from targeted cognitive rehabilitation interventions after delirium.
- cognitive impairment
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geriatrics and Gerontology
- Health(social science)
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Family Practice