Researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine, the Regenstrief Institute, Inc. and the Indiana University Center for Aging Research begin to answer this difficult question in a study published in the July issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine, now available online.
The researchers conducted a dementia screening program on 3,340 older adults attending primary care clinics. They used the CSID, a highly regarded, culturally sensitive screening test. Screening results indicated that 434 were possibly or potentially suffering from dementia.
"Dementia is common and unrecognized in primary care," said Malaz Boustani, M.D., M.P.H., the first author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine. "Since screening instruments alone have insufficient specificity to establish a valid diagnosis of dementia, all 434 were invited back for a diagnostic assessment."
Unfortunately 50 percent of those in the study who screened positive for dementia did not return to evaluate their screening results. Such evaluation would have ruled-in or ruled-out the presence of dementia.
"That's similar to half of female patients whose mammograms show possible cancers not returning for biopsies to determine whether they have a malignancy. Screening tools require confirmation and the primary care doctor who screens must be prepared to follow up with confirmatory testing," said Dr. Boustani.
Of the 227 who did return for diagnostic assessment, only one-half received a diagnosis of dementia. Slightly less than one-third had mild cognitive impairment not severe enough to cause dementia. One-fifth did not have any type of cognitive problem.
Contact: Cindy Fox Aisen