Impact of Subsyndromal Delirium Occurrence and Its Trajectory during ICU Stay

Rodrigo B. Serafim, Felipe Dal-Pizzol, Vicente Souza-Dantas, Marcio Soares, Fernando A. Bozza, Pedro Póvoa, Ronir Raggio Luiz, José R. Lapa e Silva, Jorge I.F. Salluh

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Despite recent advances in the field, the association between subsyndromal delirium (SSD) in the ICU and poor outcomes is not entirely clear. We performed a retrospective multicentric observational study analyzing mental status during the first 72 h of ICU stay. Of the 681 patients included, SSD occurred in 22.7%. Considering the worst cognitive assessment during the first 72 h, 233 (34%) patients had normal mental status, 124 (18%) patients had SSD and 324 (48%) patients had delirium or coma. SSD was not independently associated with an increased risk of death when compared with normal mental status (OR 95%IC 1.0 vs. 1.35 [0.73–1.49], p = 0.340), but was associated with a longer ICU LOS (7.0 (4–12) vs. 4 (3–8) days, p < 0.001). SSD patients who deteriorated to delirium or coma (21%) had a longer ICU LOS in comparison with those who improved or maintained mental status (8 (5–11) vs. 6 (4–8) days, p = 0.025), but did not have an increase in mortality. The main factors associated with the progression from SSD to delirium or coma were the use of mechanical ventilation, the use of intravenous benzodiazepines and a baseline APACHE II score > 23 points. Our findings support the association of SSD with increased ICU LOS, but not with ICU mortality. Monitoring the trajectory of SSD early at ICU admission can help to identify patients with increased risk of conversion from SSD to delirium or coma.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6797
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • cognitive dysfunction
  • critically ill
  • delirium
  • ICU
  • subsyndromal delirium


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