Preoperative Cognitive Performance Dominates Risk for Delirium among Older Adults

Richard N. Jones, Edward R. Marcantonio, Jane S. Saczynski, Douglas Tommet, Alden L. Gross, Thomas G. Travison, David C. Alsop, Eva M. Schmitt, Tamara G. Fong, Sevdenur Cizginer, Mouhsin M. Shafi, Alvaro Pascual-Leone, Sharon K. Inouye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Cognitive impairment is a well-recognized risk factor for delirium. Our goal was to determine whether the level of cognitive performance across the nondemented cognitive ability spectrum is correlated with delirium risk and to gauge the importance of cognition relative to other known risk factors for delirium. Methods: The Successful Aging after Elective Surgery study enrolled 566 adults aged ≥70 years scheduled for major surgery. Patients were assessed preoperatively and daily during hospitalization for the occurrence of delirium using the Confusion Assessment Method. Cognitive function was assessed preoperatively with an 11-test neuropsychological battery combined into a composite score for general cognitive performance (GCP). We examined the risk for delirium attributable to GCP, as well as demographic factors, vocabulary ability, and informant-rated cognitive decline, and compared the strength of association with risk factors identified in a previously published delirium prediction rule for delirium. Results: Delirium occurred in 135 (24%) patients. Lower GCP score was strongly and linearly predictive of delirium risk (relative risk = 2.0 per each half standard deviation difference in GCP score, 95% confidence interval, 1.5-2.5). This effect was not attenuated by statistical adjustment for demographics, vocabulary ability, and informant-rated cognitive decline. The effect was stronger than, and largely independent from, both standard delirium risk factors and comorbidity. Conclusion: Risk of delirium is linearly and strongly related to presurgical cognitive performance level even at levels above the population median, which would be considered unimpaired.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-327
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • cognitive impairment
  • delirium
  • epidemiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Preoperative Cognitive Performance Dominates Risk for Delirium among Older Adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this