Dementia screening should start with a single question


  • Mary Corcoran
  • Univadis Medical News
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Physicians should follow a stepwise approach to assess future dementia risk in patients in primary care settings, starting with one single question, according to the authors of a new analysis. 

The study assessed the association between incident dementia and responses to a question regarding subjective memory complaints (SMC) combined with scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination delayed recall item (MMSE-5) and the Visual Association Test (VAT) among 3,454 community-dwelling adults aged between 70 to 78 years.

At follow-up after 6.7 years, 7 per cent of participants had developed dementia. The study found SMC alone was associated with future dementia (hazard ratio [HR] 3.01; 95% CI 2.31-3.94; P<.001 as were the mmse-5 ci p and vat scores.>

The authors said that for older persons with SMC, subsequently administering the MMSE and VAT substantially changed the percentages of future dementia cases, yielding 4 per cent and 30 per cent in those with two optimal and imperfect scores, respectively. 

Writing in the Annals of Family Medicine, the authors recommend starting screening with a single question on subjective memory loss, followed by a brief assessment of cognitive delay from the MMSE-5 and then the VAT.