Validation of the 4AT tool for delirium assessment in specialist palliative care settings: protocol of a prospective diagnostic test accuracy study [version 1; peer review: 2 approved]

Elizabeth Arnold*, Anne M. Finucane, Juliet A. Spiller, Zoe Tieges, Alasdair M.J. MacLullich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Background: Delirium is a serious and distressing neuropsychiatric condition, which is prevalent across all palliative care settings. Hypoactive delirium is particularly common, but difficult to recognize, partly due to overlapping symptoms with depression and dementia. Delirium screening tools can lead to earlier identification and hence better management of patients. The 4AT (4 ‘A’s Test) is a brief tool for delirium detection, designed for use in clinical practice. It has been validated in 17 studies in over 3,700 patients. The test is currently used in specialist palliative care units, but has not been validated in this setting. The aim of the study is to determine the diagnostic accuracy of the 4AT for delirium detection against a reference standard, in hospice inpatients.
Methods: 240 participants will be recruited from the inpatient units of two hospices in Scotland. If a patient lacks capacity to consent, agreement will be sought from a legal proxy. Each participant will complete the 4AT and a reference standard assessment based on the diagnostic delirium criteria in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This will be supplemented by tests of cognition and attention, including reverse days of the week, counting down from 20 to 1, Vigilance 'A', the Observational Scale for Level of Arousal, the modified Richmond Agitation Sedation Scale and the Delirium Rating Scale-Revised-98. The assessments will be conducted in a randomized order by two independent clinicians, who will be blinded to the results until both are complete. Primary outcomes will be the sensitivity and specificity of the 4AT in detecting delirium.
Discussion: The findings will inform clinical practice regarding delirium assessment in palliative care settings.
Trial registration: ISRCTN ISRCTN97417474 (21/02/2020).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalAMRC Open Research
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • 4AT, 4 'A's Test, delirium, screening, detection, hospice, specialist palliative care, palliative care, DSM-5

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