Delirium (acute confusion)

Acute confusion is most common in patients with dementia but may affect patients with no previous dementia or memory impairment. Another word for acute confusion is delirium which has an abrupt onset and a fluctuating course throughout the day. The person’s attention is often impaired and they have disorganised thoughts and misbeliefs as well as hallucinations. They can be extremely agitated or very still.

There are many causes of acute confusion which include infection, cardiac illnesses, respiratory disorders, electrolyte imbalance, endocrine disorders, drugs and drug withdrawal, urine retention, constipation, neurological problems, trauma including surgery and change of environment.

Services and treatments

While in hospital the medical and nursing teams will try and find out the cause of the acute confusion by doing simple tests which will include blood tests and x-rays. Sometimes cause of acute confusion is not clear. Acute confusion can last for several weeks. The person will not always make a full recovery.

This is why the doctors may ask to follow you up with regards to your memory as not all patients who have an episode of acute confusion go on to develop dementia.

Patient information leaflets

We produce a wide range of leaflets which provide information about our services and about the treatment you might receive in our clinics or during your stay in hospital. 

We also produce these in different formats including large print, please contact the department you are visiting for more information.


Last updated: January 12, 2023.