Delirium Can Be Side Effect of Stem Cell Transplant

Suffered by half of cancer patients who had it, researchers say

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MONDAY, Jan. 10, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Half of cancer patients who have stem cell transplants show signs of delirium after the procedure, says a study to be published in the Feb. 15 issue of Cancer.

These signs of delirium can be subtle and easily missed by doctors, the study noted. The symptoms include disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle, impaired attention and memory, and hypoactive behavior.

Classic symptoms of delirium include hallucinations, delusions, agitation and disorientation.

The study found the severity of delirium is associated with the levels of distress, pain and fatigue experienced by patients. This is the first research to identify this link between stem cell transplantation and delirium, the researchers said.

Delirium is associated with increased risk of falls, wound infections and aspiration pneumonia. In cancer patients, delirium is also associated with an increased risk of death while in a hospital and within five years of follow-up.

Researchers at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center tracked 90 cancer patients for 30 days after they had hematopoietic stem cell treatment. Half the patients suffered delirium episodes afterward.

The study authors concluded that doctors shouldn't rely on classic delirium symptoms to recognize the problem in this group of patients.

"More subtle symptoms of hypoactive psychomotor behavior, altered sleep-wake cycle, and impaired attention and working memory should be early indicators for increased monitoring and identification of possible causes of delirium," the authors wrote.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about delirium.

SOURCE: Cancer, news release, Jan. 9, 2005


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