Central Nervous System-Acting Medicines and Risk of Hospital Admission for Confusion, Delirium, or Dementia

Lisa M. Kalisch Ellett, Nicole L. Pratt, Emmae N. Ramsay, Janet Sluggett, John D. Barratt, Elizabeth E. Roughead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Most studies assessing the effect of central nervous system (CNS)-acting medicines on cognitive disturbances have focused on the use of individual medicines. The impact on cognitive function when another CNS-acting medicine is added to a patient's treatment regimen is not well known. Objective: To determine risk of hospitalization for confusion, delirium, or dementia in older people associated with increasing numbers of CNS-acting medicines taken concurrently, as well as the number of standard doses taken each day (measured as defined daily doses). Design: Retrospective cohort study, from July 2011 to June 2012, using health claims data. Setting: Australian veteran population. Participants: A total of 74,321 community-dwelling individuals aged 65 years and over, who were dispensed at least 1 CNS-acting medicine in the year before study entry. Patients with prior hospitalization for confusion or delirium, and those with dementia or receiving palliative care, were excluded. Main outcome measure: Hospitalization for confusion, delirium, or dementia. Results: Over the 1-year study period, 401 participants were hospitalized with confusion, delirium, or dementia. Adjusted analyses showed the risk of hospitalization was 2.4 times greater with the use of 2 CNS-acting medicines compared with no use [incident rate ratio (IRR) 2.39, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.79-3.19, P < .001], and more than 19 times greater when 5 or more CNS-acting medicines were taken concurrently (IRR 19.35, 95% CI 11.10-33.72, P < .001). Similarly, the risk of hospitalization was significantly increased among patients taking between 1.0 and 1.9 standard doses per day (IRR 2.64, 95% CI 1.99-3.50, P < .001) and between 2.0 and 2.9 standard doses per day (IRR 3.43, 95% CI 2.07-5.69, P < .001) compared with no use. Conclusions: Use of multiple CNS-acting medicines or higher doses is associated with an increased risk of hospitalization for confusion, delirium, or dementia. Health care professionals need to be alert to the contribution of CNS-acting medicines among patients presenting with confusion or delirium and consider strategies to reduce treatment burden where possible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)530-534
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Delirium
  • Dementia
  • Geriatrics
  • Psychotropics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Health Policy
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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