New Delirium Severity Indicators: Generation and Internal Validation in the Better Assessment of Illness (BASIL) Study

Sarinnapha M. Vasunilashorn, Dena Schulman-Green, Douglas Tommet, Tamara G. Fong, Tammy T. Hshieh, Edward R. Marcantonio, Eran D. Metzger, Eva M. Schmitt, Patricia A. Tabloski, Thomas G. Travison, Yun Gou, Benjamin Helfand, Sharon K. Inouye, Richard N. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Delirium is a common and preventable geriatric syndrome. Moving beyond the binary classification of delirium present/absent, delirium severity represents a potentially important outcome for evaluating preventive and treatment interventions and tracking the course of patients. Although several delirium severity assessment tools currently exist, most have been developed in the absence of advanced measurement methodology and have not been evaluated with rigorous validation studies. Objective: We aimed to report our development of new delirium severity items and the results of item reduction and selection activities guided by psychometric analysis of data derived from a field study. Methods: Building on our literature review of delirium instruments and expert panel process to identify domains of delirium severity, we adapted items from existing delirium severity instruments and generated new items. We then fielded these items among a sample of 352 older hospitalized patients. Results: We used an expert panel process and psychometric data analysis techniques to narrow a set of 303 potential items to 17 items for use in a new delirium severity instrument. The 17-item set demonstrated good internal validity and favorable psychometric characteristics relative to comparator instruments, including the Confusion Assessment Method-Severity (CAM-S) score, the Delirium Rating Scale Revised 98, and the Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale. Conclusion: We more fully conceptualized delirium severity and identified characteristics of an ideal delirium severity instrument. These characteristics include an instrument that is relatively quick to administer, is easy to use by raters with minimal training, and provides a severity rating with good content validity, high internal consistency reliability, and broad domain coverage across delirium symptoms. We anticipate these characteristics to be represented in the subsequent development of our final delirium severity instrument.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-90
Number of pages14
JournalDementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Delirium
  • Delirium severity
  • Psychometrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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