In the present study, we demonstrated that just from a standard CGA it is possible to obtain useful information to identify subjects at risk for delirium. Specifically, high-risk MPI category was associated with occurrence of pre-operative delirium among older adults undergoing surgery for hip fracture.
Seniors with hip fracture are very vulnerable subjects at elevated risk of mortality27. Indeed, in our cohort, we did not find any patient in MPI-1, the low mortality risk category. Multidimensional impairment before surgery could also identify subjects more prone to develop life-threatening complications as pre-operative delirium. Incidence of pre-operative delirium in our cohort was 43% which is similar to previously reported estimates in older adults with hip fracture3,9. In particular subjects with higher MPI score (MPI-3) at admission had 2.4 times higher risk to develop delirium before surgery, independently by other potential confounders.
The mechanisms underlying pre-operative delirium are still unclear. They might be partially different also from those of post-operative delirium, and mainly related to fracture-associated pain and adverse effects of analgesic treatments3. A number of risk factors favoring delirium occurrence have been recognized and can be distinguished between predisposing and precipitating factors28,29. Here, we found that elderly subjects who experienced pre-operative delirium were significantly older, and already more compromised at admission, having lower cognitive performance, poorer functional status and being more malnourished compared to those patients who did not have delirium. Post-operative complications as infections and anemia were associated with presence of delirium before surgery. Overall post-operative complications could explain also the longer length of in-hospital stay in the delirium group. In a recent meta-analysis, Smith et al. revised 32 studies for a total of 6704 included older adults with hip fracture30. They assessed potential pre-, intra-, and post-operative risk factors for delirium. Consistently with our findings, they demonstrated that people with delirium are roughly three years older, more often institutionalized prior the hospital admission, and have lower cognitive scores as assessed by Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE)30. Presence of dementia at admission and higher American Society for Anesthesiologists (ASA) score (i.e. grade III and IV) are associated with six- and two-time higher risk of delirium, respectively30. Other reports from older adults with hip fracture showed that risk factors for pre-operative delirium are partially different from those of post-operative delirium9,16. Specifically, waiting time to surgery, number of comorbidities, use of opioids and benzodiazepines, and fever were associated with pre- but not post-operative delirium9,16.
Our study demonstrated that pre-surgical multidimensional assessment using the MPI, a prognostic index based on data available from a standard CGA, was associated with occurrence of delirium independently by age and other potential confounders intervening later during hospitalization (e.g. delay of surgery, type of anesthesia, infections, anemia). Several prediction models have been proposed to identify in-patient older adults at risk for delirium29,31,32,33,34,35, but few instruments have been validated specifically for detection of patients more prone to develop pre-operative delirium. In particular, the delirium elderly at risk (DEAR) tool, has been developed to predict incidence of delirium before surgery among older adults with hip fracture36. It is a five-item scale assessing cognitive deficits, sensory impairment, functional dependence, substance use, and age (> 80 years old), with a score ranging from 0 (no risk factor) to 5 (all risk factors)36. However, the DEAR tool, using a cut-off value of 3, showed good specificity (82%), but quite low sensitivity (63%) in predicting pre-operative delirium36. Collectively these data support the concept that multidimensional aggregate information, readily available in clinical practice and easy to obtain, could help physicians to predict occurrence of pre-operative delirium in older patients with hip fracture.
The present study has also some limitations. Firstly, since the study population included selected patients, it is possible that the sample is unrepresentative of older population hospitalized with hip fracture. Secondly, the retrospective design did not allow to systematically collect further information for example about: type of fracture, mechanism of injury, ASA score, delirium motor subtypes (hyperactive, hypoactive, mixed), analgesic and sedative treatments, or other potential post-operative complications. Finally, the study population was relatively small, and the patients were recruited from a single hospital. Therefore, larger prospective multicenter studies are needed to confirm and validate these findings.
In conclusion, the care of hospitalized older adults with hip fracture, who are at risk for delirium, requires a collaborative multidisciplinary effort involving geriatricians, orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses. The CGA-based MPI, collected at hospital admission, might be a sensitive tool to early identify subjects at risk to develop pre-operative delirium and thus could represent a crucial step toward individualized decision making.