Screening for Dementia in Primary Care Settings. Ann Intern Med. 2003;138:I-60. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-138-11-200306030-00006
Download citation file:
Published: Ann Intern Med. 2003;138(11):I-60.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a group of health experts that reviews published research and makes recommendations about preventive health care.
Dementia is a condition that affects memory and thinking enough to interfere with normal daily activities. About 1 out of every 10 Americans older than 65 years of age has some degree of dementia. Poor memory alone is not dementia, and some declines in short-term memory are normal as people age. Several diseases can cause dementia, but the two most common are Alzheimer disease and cerebrovascular dementia. In Alzheimer disease, the buildup of abnormal proteins damages brain cells. In cerebrovascular dementia, low blood flow to the brain damages brain cells. There is no cure for dementia. However, drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors can modestly slow the worsening of disease. Also, some nondrug management strategies might be useful in delaying the need for nursing home care. Doctors should consider a diagnosis of dementia if a patient reports problems with memory and thinking. However, it is unclear whether it makes sense for primary care doctors to screen for dementia in patients who do not report these problems. Screening is looking for a specific condition in people who do not report symptoms of that condition.
The USPSTF reviewed published research to evaluate the benefits and harms of screening primary care patients for dementia. For screening to make sense, several circumstances need to exist. First, the condition must be common. Second, there must be a good way to test for the condition. Third, treatment must be available. Fourth, patients treated early (before symptoms develop) must do better than patients treated later (after symptoms develop). Fifth, the potential harms of screening must not outweigh the benefits.
The USPSTF authors found that no studies evaluated the benefits and harms of screening for dementia. They did find studies suggesting that brief examinations can detect dementia. However, only about half of the people who have positive results on brief examinations actually have dementia confirmed by more rigorous tests. Studies show that treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors for 6 to 12 months can modestly slow the worsening of dementia but only minimally affects patient function. There is very limited information about other types of treatments for dementia. No good studies have addressed other potential benefits and harms of screening for this disorder.
The USPSTF recommends neither for nor against screening for dementia in primary care patients who do not have symptoms of memory loss or confusion. If patients or their relatives notice memory problems, they should tell their doctors because testing for dementia might be reasonable in this situation.
As better studies become available, the USPSTF may modify these recommendations.
The In the Clinic® slide sets are owned and copyrighted by the American College of Physicians (ACP). All text, graphics, trademarks, and other intellectual property incorporated into the slide sets remain the sole and exclusive property of the ACP. The slide sets may be used only by the person who downloads or purchases them and only for the purpose of presenting them during not-for-profit educational activities. Users may incorporate the entire slide set or selected individual slides into their own teaching presentations but may not alter the content of the slides in any way or remove the ACP copyright notice. Users may make print copies for use as hand-outs for the audience the user is personally addressing but may not otherwise reproduce or distribute the slides by any means or media, including but not limited to sending them as e-mail attachments, posting them on Internet or Intranet sites, publishing them in meeting proceedings, or making them available for sale or distribution in any unauthorized form, without the express written permission of the ACP. Unauthorized use of the In the Clinic slide sets will constitute copyright infringement.
Neurology, Dementia, Prevention/Screening.
Results provided by:
Copyright © 2016 American College of Physicians. All Rights Reserved.
Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
Conditions of Use
This PDF is available to Subscribers Only