Isolating patients can lead to delirium

A link has been found between patient isolation in hospitals and delirium. New research to be published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, has shown people who are moved to rooms by themselves are nearly twice as likely to develop the condition.

Delirium is an alteration in mental status that can be potentially dangerous, with symptoms including confusion, changes in alertness and an inability to pay attention.

It was found that those who underwent contact precautions - such as being placed on their own in a room with healthcare personnel required to wear protective clothing and masks - at some point after being admitted, were more likely to develop delirium as a result.

Dr Hannah Day of the University of Maryland School of Medicine - established in 1807 - said: "We hope clinicians will view a move to isolation as a marker for increased risk of delirium and take appropriate precautions."

Commenting, Dr Anne Manyande, Chartered Psychologist, said: "I can understand how isolating patients in hospital can lead to delirium.

"Patients are often confined to bed and have to allow strangers to observe and examine them. In addition, some patients have to endure painful procedures. Their personal space is constantly being invaded as part of the normal hospital routine. Sleep and circadian rhythms are disturbed. Patients find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, are separated from loved ones and might experience financial difficulties as a result of hospitalisation. They might also experience problems with their treatment or drugs, such as side-effects.

"Lack of full diagnosis, adequate treatment and information may exacerbate their feeling of isolation. If this is compounded further by the hospital staff wearing protective clothing and masks (as a precautionary measure in cases of controlling infectious diseases), the outcome for an anxious patient might be delirium."