Harvard Health Letter

Diagnosing delirium

Confusion Assessment Method, the short version

1. Acute onset and fluctuating course

Is there evidence of an acute change in mental status from the patient's baseline? Did this behavior fluctuate during the day — that is, come and go or increase and decrease in severity?

2. Inattention

Does the patient have difficulty focusing attention, for example, being easily distractible or having difficulty keeping track of what was being said?

3. Disorganized thinking

Is the patient's speech disorganized or incoherent, such as rambling or irrelevant conversation, unclear or illogical flow of ideas, or unpredictable switching from subject to subject?

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »