Many adults suffer from complications involving delirium at some point in their lives. For many, the complication is temporary and may be induced by a medical complication. For the elderly population, the complication of delirium may be attributed to a medical procedure which resolves as healing from that procedure occurs.
Delirium is characterized by a loss of cognitive processing and normal consciousness, usually occurring when there is a syndrome of complications affecting the central nervous system. In many hospital and surgical settings, the onset of temporary delirium is not uncommon and is often a side effect of surgery and the use of anesthesia. In the even of cataract surgery, the complications associated with delirium, within the elderly population, is quite common.
When considering cataract surgery, it is important to ask your surgeon about the risks associated with delirium. While many cases of delirium are temporary, there is some risk for death in the months following the onset of delirium. In fact, many surgeons are reporting death rates may be as high as 30 percent following cataract surgery. This risk, however, is not attributed directly to the surgery but, instead, may be a complication of the delirium itself.
Following your cataract surgery, it is important that your surgeon assess your risk or development of delirium. If you have shown signs of delirium, it will be necessary to continue to manage this complication for the weeks and months following cataract surgery. In some cases, your delirium may not develop immediately after cataract surgery but may manifest, instead, two to three days after the procedure is complete. One risk factor that has been linked to the increased risk for delirium after cataract surgery involved the pre-operative use of psychotropic medications, including benzodiazepine.
If, after several weeks and months, the delirium does not seem to improve, consultation with a psychiatrist and neurologist may be necessary. Because the complications of delirium are related to the central nervous system, there may need to be a course of treatment outlined to modify the complications of delirium and improve long term health outcomes. It is not in your best interest to simply deal with the delirium without medical or psychiatric management.
While some degree of mental impairment is common with aging, the onset of delirium is indicative of a syndrome of the central nervous system. For the elderly who are about to undergo cataract surgery, it is important to assess mental health both before and after surgery. If you find that symptoms of delirium are present, it is important to manage those symptoms to ensure the complications dissipate. Without proper management, there is an increased risk for death in the months after cataract surgery.