Duration of General Anesthesia Is Associated with Development of Delirium among ICU Patients

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date



College of Health Sciences


School of Nursing

Faculty Sponsor

Jenny Alderden


Background: Delirium is a serious problem among critical care patients. Recognizing which patients are at risk is essential since delirium can be reduced with targeted interventions. Studies suggest that surgical patients may be at higher risk for delirium due to general anesthesia effects, illness severity, or stress associated with surgery.

Purpose: To elucidate the relationship between general anesthesia and delirium development among critical care patients, and to determine whether the presence or absence of general anesthesia, the duration of general anesthesia, or a combination of both affect delirium risk.

Methods: Information about delirium among ICU patients was obtained from electronic health record data at a level 1 trauma and academic medical center. Delirium was assessed using the confusion assessment method ICU. The total duration of general anesthesia was recorded for each patient, and the total minutes of general anesthesia for all surgeries combined was recorded for patients with multiple surgeries.

Results: Patients with delirium had longer total durations of general anesthesia compared with patients without delirium. However, there was no significant relationship between the presence of general anesthesia and subsequent development of delirium when divided into a yes or no variable, and the presence of a short duration of general anesthesia was not significantly associated with delirium.

Implications: Patients with longer durations of general anesthesia are at increased risk for developing delirium. Nurses should consider maximal preventative interventions for these patients, and can utilize these findings to guide education for surgical patients.

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