Risk Factors for the Development of Postoperative Delirium in Pediatric Intensive Care Patients

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To determine and quantify risk factors for postoperative pediatric delirium.


Single-center prospective cohort study.


Twenty-two bed PICU in a tertiary care academic medical center in Germany.


All children admitted after major elective surgery (n = 93; 0–17 yr).


After awakening, children were screened for delirium using the Cornell Assessment of Pediatric Delirium bid over a period of 5 days. Demographic and clinical data were collected from the initiation of general anesthesia.

Measurements and Main Results:

A total of 61 patients (66%) were delirious. Younger children developed delirium more frequently, and the symptoms were more pronounced. The number of preceding operations did not influence the risk of delirium. Total IV anesthesia had a lower risk than inhalational anesthesia (p < 0.05). Duration of anesthesia was similar in all groups. Patients with delirium had a longer duration of mechanical ventilation in the PICU (p < 0.001). Significant differences in cumulative doses of various medications (e.g., sedatives, analgesics, and anticholinergics) were noted between groups; these differences were independent of disease severity. Invasive catheters and respiratory devices (p < 0.01) as well as infections (p < 0.001) increased risk of delirium.


A high prevalence of delirium was noted in the PICU, and several perioperative risk factors were identified. Our data may be a base for development of strategies to prevent and treat postoperative delirium in children.

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