Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of delirium in older adults with COVID-19. Literature review

Sara Gloria Aguilar-Navarro, José Octavio Duarte-Flores, Mary Cruz Granados-Valdéz, María José Suing-Ortega, Alberto José Mimenza-Alvarado



Background. COVID-19 affects several systems in the body, including the central nervous system (CNS), expressed in the form of headaches, hyposmia, cerebrovascular disease, and neuropathy. Older Adults (OA) are vulnerable to this infection, and may also present delirium, which may be the result of the virus directly affecting the CNS or of systemic inflammation during infection.

Objective. To determine the clinical characteristics, risk factors, pathophysiology, treatment measures, and prevention of delirium associated with COVID-19 from a review of the literature in times of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Method. A search was conducted in PubMed, SciELO, UpToDate, and Medscape using keywords in English and Spanish.

Results. Seventy-two articles were reviewed. We analyzed inclusion and exclusion criteria and 43 articles with relevant information for the narrative description of the review were selected. Twenty to thirty per cent of the COVID-19 patients will present or develop delirium, or changes in mental status during their hospitalization, with rates of 60% to 70% in severe illness. The exact mechanisms are likely to be multifactorial. There is a worrying lack of attention to the implications of identifying and managing delirium in the response to this pandemic.

Discussion and conclusion. Delirium is a frequent neurological manifestation in OA with COVID-19 and requires early identification, as well as the implementation of non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatment strategies, which may reduce the associated morbidity and mortality in this age group.


COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; delirium; older adult

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