American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Hospital Delirium, Medical Tourism


Delirium affects millions of elderly hospital patients every year, but it’s only recently being treated with the seriousness it deserves. On today’s show, why preventing hospital delirium may be more important than treating it, plus a physician who experienced the horrors of the condition firsthand when her mother’s delirium nearly cost her her life. And later in the show, why some Americans are leaving the country for medical treatment – and the risks that come with it.

Listen to this episode.

Segment 1: Hospital Delirium, Part 1 (1:00-9:35)
Guest: Dr. Wes Ely, Associate Director of Aging Research at the VA's Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Centers

As the country's aging population makes up a bigger percentage of hospital patients, physicians are learning to treat - and more importantly - prevent cases of what is being called "hospital delirium."

Hospital delirium was once dismissed by doctors as a temporary and perhaps inevitable result of elderly patients undergoing the stresses of hospital care, but it's now being treated as a profoundly harmful condition that can and should be prevented.

Hospital delirium can strike patients without any history of dementia, but once they experience it, it can have devastating long-term consequences.

More information about how to prevent and treat hospital delirium at

Segment 2: Hospital Delirium, Part 2 (9:41-19:21)
Guest: Dr. Lauren Kosinski, a colorectal surgeon and an assistant professor of surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee

Preventing hospital delirium in elderly patients can be managed with sometimes simple adjustments to care - making sure the patient is surrounded by familiar faces, replacing hearing aids and eyeglasses after surgery. And for a condition with often long-term consequences, prevention is key. As our next guest can explain, untreated or misdiagnosed delirium can be a matter of life and death.

Dr. Lauren Kosinski is a colorectal surgeon and an assistant professor of surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. She witnessed the horrors of hospital delirium firsthand when her mother was hospitalized for a respiratory infection and started showing signs of delirium. Making matters worse, doctors initially misdiagnosed the delirium, believing it to be the result of hypoxic brain injury - a lack of oxygen to the brain. Dr. Kosinski - who hadn't seen her mother in two decades - took matters into her own hands, possibly saving her mother's life.

Segment 3: Medical Tourism (19:26-28:00)
Guest: Renee Marie Stephano, President of the Medical Tourism Association

For many healthy, insured Americans, going abroad for medical treatment may seem unnecessarily risky - a choice of last resort. But hundreds of thousands of people - insured and uninsured alike - leave the country every year for medical care - some for treatment unavailable in the US, but others to simply save money. There are risks, of course - most insurance companies won't cover the cost of complications that arise from treatment done overseas - but that doesn't stop some people doing their health care shopping ... in the global marketplace.