Postoperative delirium is common in critically ill patients, with a reported incidence of 11%–43%, and is associated with significant morbidity and cost. Perioperative hypotension and consequent brain hypoperfusion may contribute. We, therefore, tested the hypotheses that intraoperative and postoperative hypotension are associated with critical care delirium.
We included 1083 postoperative patients who were admitted directly from an operating room to the surgical intensive care unit. Delirium was assessed with the Confusion Assessment Method for Intensive Care Unit patients at 12-hour intervals. We used a confounder-adjusted Cox proportional hazard survival model to assess the association between the amount of intraoperative hypotension, which was measured as the time-weighted average of mean arterial pressure <65 mm Hg, and delirium while in critical care. Thereafter, we used a Cox model with the lowest mean arterial pressure on each intensive care day as a time-varying covariate to assess the relationship between critical care hypotension and delirium, adjusted for confounders and amount of intraoperative hypotension.
Three hundred seventy-seven (35%) patients had delirium within the first 5 postoperative days in the surgical intensive care unit. Intraoperative hypotension was moderately associated with higher odds of postoperative delirium. The adjusted hazard ratio associated with 1 mm Hg increase in time-weighted average of mean arterial pressure <65 mm Hg was 1.11 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03–1.20; P = .008). Postoperatively, a 10 mm Hg reduction in the lowest mean pressure on each day in the critical care unit was significantly associated with a higher hazard of delirium, with an adjusted hazard ratio 1.12 (95% CI, 1.04–1.20; P = .003).
Both intraoperative and postoperative hypotension are associated with delirium in postoperative critical care patients. The extent to which these relationships are causal remains unknown, but to the extent that they are, hypotension prevention may help reduce delirium and should be studied in prospective clinical trials.