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Open Access Research article

A pilot study of rivastigmine in the treatment of delirium after stroke: A safe alternative

Annemarie W Oldenbeuving1, Paul LM de Kort12, Ben PW Jansen2, L Jaap Kappelle3 and Gerwin Roks1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of neurology, St Elisabeth Hospital, Tilburg, the netherlands

2 Department of neurology, TweeSteden Hospital, Tilburg, the netherlands

3 Department of neurology, University Medical Center, Utrecht, the netherlands

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BMC Neurology 2008, 8:34  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-8-34

Published: 20 September 2008

Abstract

Background

Delirium is a common disorder in the early phase of stroke. Given the presumed cholinergic deficiency in delirium, we tested treatment with the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor rivastigmine.

Methods

This pilot study was performed within an epidemiological study. In 527 consecutive stroke patients presence of delirium was assessed during the first week with the confusion assessment method. Severity was scored with the delirium rating scale (DRS). Sixty-two patients developed a delirium in the acute phase of stroke. Only patients with a severe and persistent delirium (defined as a DRS of 12 or more for more than 24 hours) were enrolled in the present study. In total 26 fulfilled these criteria of whom 17 were treated with orally administered rivastigmine with a total dose between 3 and 12 mg a day. Eight patients could not be treated because of dysphagia and one because of early discharge.

Results

No major side effects were recorded. In 16 patients there was a considerable decrease in severity of delirium. The mean DRS declined from 14.8 on day one to 8.5 after therapy and 5.6 after tapering. The mean duration of delirium was 6.7 days (range; 2–17).

Conclusion

Rivastigmine is safe in stroke patients with delirium even after rapid titration. In the majority of patients the delirium improved after treatment. A randomized controlled trial is needed to establish the usefulness of rivastigmine in delirium after stroke.

Trial registration

Nederlands Trial Register NTR1395