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In sub-Saharan Africa, there are no validated screening tools for delirium in older adults, despite the known vulnerability of older people to delirium and the associated adverse outcomes. This study aimed to assess the effectiveness of a brief smartphone-based assessment of arousal and attention (DelApp) in the identification of delirium amongst older adults admitted to the medical department of a tertiary referral hospital in Northern Tanzania.
Consecutive admissions were screened using the DelApp during a larger study of delirium prevalence and risk factors. All participants subsequently underwent detailed clinical assessment for delirium by a research doctor. Delirium and dementia were identified against DSM-5 criteria by consensus.
Complete data for 66 individuals were collected of whom 15 (22.7%) had delirium, 24.5% had dementia without delirium, and 10.6% had delirium superimposed on dementia. Sensitivity and specificity of the DelApp for delirium were 0.87 and 0.62, respectively (AUROC 0.77) and 0.88 and 0.73 (AUROC 0.85) for major cognitive impairment (dementia and delirium combined). Lower DelApp score was associated with age, significant visual impairment (<6/60 acuity), illness severity, reduced arousal and DSM-5 delirium on univariable analysis, but on multivariable logistic regression only arousal remained significant.
In this setting, the DelApp performed well in identifying delirium and major cognitive impairment but did not differentiate delirium and dementia. Performance is likely to have been affected by confounders including uncorrected visual impairment and reduced level of arousal without delirium. Negative predictive value was nevertheless high, indicating excellent ‘rule out’ value in this setting.
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