What are delirium, dementia, and amnesia?

Updated: Sep 19, 2018
  • Author: Richard D Shin, MD; Chief Editor: Gil Z Shlamovitz, MD, FACEP  more...
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Delirium, dementia, amnesia (and certain other alterations in cognition, judgment, and/or memory) are grouped together in this chapter as organically based disruptions of brain functioning. While psychiatric illnesses can at times mimic some features of these conditions or complicate their presentation in the emergency department, the primary etiologies are physiological rather than psychiatric. Causes of these conditions include metabolic disruptions, endocrine dysfunction, drug toxicity, structural injury (eg, trauma, stroke, chronic dementing process), brain ischemia, severe physiologic/psychological stressors (including prolonged sensory deprivation, "ICU psychosis", sleep deprivation), encephalitis and sepsis.

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