Common Dementia Screening Tests Often Misclassify Patients [2019-01-18]

Brief cognitive tests that take a few minutes to complete can be useful for screening patients for dementia in busy settings. But, new evidence suggests that such brevity may come at the cost of accuracy.

In a study published November 28, 2018, in Neurology: Clinical Practice, researchers examined the error rates of three commonly used cognitive screening tools: the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), which tests memory skills including proper orientation of time and place; the Memory Impairment Screen (MIS), which tests the ability to remember words; and Animal Naming (AN), a verbal fluency test that involves naming as many animals as possible in 60 seconds. They found about a third of the patients who were screened for dementia by at least one of the three short cognitive assessments were misclassified.

“Our study found that all three tests often give incorrect results that may wrongly conclude that a person does or does not have dementia,” study author David Llewellyn, Ph.D., a senior research fellow at the University of Exeter Medical School, said in a press release. “Each test has a different pattern of biases, so people are more likely to be misclassified by one test than another depending on factors such as their age, education, and ethnicity.”

The study authors hope that the findings might help guide physicians to the most appropriate cognitive tests for their patients.

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Nick Zagorski
Psychiatric News
January 18, 2019