Baseline acetylcholinesterase activity and serotonin plasma levels are not associated with delirium in critically ill patients

Cristiane Damiani Tomasi Jorge Salluh Márcio Soares Francieli Vuolo Francieli Zanatta Larissa de Souza Constantino Alexandra Ioppi Zugno Cristiane Ritter Felipe Dal-Pizzol About the authors



The aim of this study was to investigate whether plasma serotonin levels or acetylcholinesterase activities determined upon intensive care unit admission could predict the occurrence of acute brain dysfunction in intensive care unit patients.


A prospective cohort study was conducted with a sample of 77 non-consecutive patients observed between May 2009 and September 2010. Delirium was determined using the Confusion Assessment Method for the Intensive Care Unit tool, and the acetylcholinesterase and serotonin measurements were determined from blood samples collected up to a maximum of 24 h after the admission of the patient to the intensive care unit.


In the present study, 38 (49.6%) patients developed delirium during their intensive care unit stays. Neither serum acetylcholinesterase activity nor serotonin level was independently associated with delirium. No significant correlations of acetylcholinesterase activity or serotonin level with delirium/coma-free days were observed, but in the patients who developed delirium, there was a strong negative correlation between the acetylcholinesterase level and the number of delirium/coma-free days, indicating that higher acetylcholinesterase levels are associated with fewer days alive without delirium or coma. No associations were found between the biomarkers and mortality.


Neither serum acetylcholinesterase activity nor serotonin level was associated with delirium or acute brain dysfunction in critically ill patients. Sepsis did not modify these relationships.

Acetylcholinesterase/drug effects; Serotonin/drug effects; Delirium; Sepsis; Intensive care units

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