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Delirium is a poor-prognosis neuropsychiatric disorder. Pediatric delirium (PD) remains understudied, particularly at pediatric intensive care units (PICU). Although the Pediatric Anesthesia Emergence Delirium (PAED) scale, the Delirium Rating Scale (DRS-88), and the Delirium Rating Scale-Revised (DRS-R-98) are available, none have been validated for use in PICU settings. The aim of the present study was to investigate the use of the DRS/PAED instruments as diagnostic tools for PD in the PICU.A prospective panel study was conducted, under circumstances of routine clinical care, investigating the diagnostic properties of the PAED, DRS-88, and DRS-R-98 in PICU patients at a tertiary university medical center. A total of 182 non-electively admitted, critically ill pediatric patients, aged 1-17 years, were included between November 2006 and February 2010. Sensitivity, specificity, and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were calculated. Three psychometric properties were analyzed: (1) internal consistency (2) proportion of items not rateable, and (3) discriminative ability.The PAED could be completed in 144 (93.5%) patients, much more frequently than either the DRS-88 (66.9%) or the DRS-R-98 (46.8%). Compared with the clinical gold standard diagnosis of delirium, the PAED had a sensitivity of 91% and a specificity of 98% (AUC 0.99). The optimal PAED cutoff score as a screening instrument in this PICU setting was 8. Cronbach's alpha was 0.89; discriminative ability was high.The PAED is a valid instrument for PD in critically ill children, given its reliance on routinely rateable observational signs and symptoms.