Screening for cognitive impairment: comparing the performance of four instruments in primary care.

Research paper by Tracey T Holsinger, Brenda L BL Plassman, Karen M KM Stechuchak, James R JR Burke, Cynthia J CJ Coffman, John W JW Williams

Indexed on: 01 Jun '12Published on: 01 Jun '12Published in: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society


To determine whether brief cognitive screening tests perform as well as a longer screening test in diagnosis of cognitive impairment, no dementia (CIND) or dementia.A cross-sectional comparison of cognitive screening tests to an independent criterion standard evaluation using Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) criteria. Performance of the cognitive screening tests for identifying dementia, and separately for identifying dementia or CIND, was characterized using sensitivity, specificity, likelihood ratios, and diagnostic odds ratios.Three Department of Veterans Affairs primary care clinics.Of 826 independently living veterans aged 65 and older without a prior diagnosis of dementia, 639 participated and 630 were assigned a research diagnosis.Screening tests included the modified Mini-Mental State Examination (3MS; average time to administer, 17 minutes) and three brief instruments: the Memory Impairment Screen (MIS; 4 minutes), the Mini-Cog (3 minutes), and a novel two-item functional memory screen (MF-2; 1.5 minutes).Participants were aged 74.8 on average and were mostly white or black. They were mostly male (92.9%) and had been prescribed a mean of 7.7 medications for chronic conditions. The prevalence of dementia and CIND was 3.3% and 39.2%, respectively. Sensitivity and specificity for dementia were 86% and 79% for the 3MS, 76% and 73% for the Mini-Cog, 43% and 93% for the MIS, and 38% and 87% for the MF-2, respectively.In individuals without a prior diagnosis of cognitive impairment, the prevalence of dementia was low, but the prevalence of CIND was high. The 3MS and Mini-Cog had reasonable performance characteristics for detecting dementia, but a definitive diagnosis requires additional evaluation.