Outcome depends on the cause. Young, fit patients with a clear cause - say, infection - will usually make a complete recovery if the cause resolves. In older patients, the outlook varies between complete recovery, partial recovery with residual cognitive problems, and death. For general hospital inpatients, development of full-blown delirium is a predictor of increased mortality or, for those who survive, a prolonged hospital stay and/or possible need for long-term care or placement in a nursing or residential home.

Many cases of dementia, as indicated above, first present as a confusional state. There will be improvement with the resolution of the medical problem that precipitated the confusion, but then the underlying cognitive problems become apparent.

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