Offering elderly patients a brief cognitive test during routine visits to primary care raised the rate of diagnosis of cognitive impairment two- to threefold, a US study found.
Three-quarters of those who failed the tests were later diagnosed with dementia. Alzheimer’s UK has called for further research on population-wide testing in the UK.
In June 2010, the UK National Screening Committee ruled that there was little evidence that screening for Alzheimer’s would reduce mortality or morbidity.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota offered a five-point cognitive test called Mini-Cog to 8,342 people aged 70 or over who had no memory loss.
A total of 26% of patients failed the test. Of those who agreed to further evaluation, 93% had cognitive impairment and 75% had dementia.
Across all patients undergoing screening, 11% were diagnosed with cognitive impairment, compared with 4% among those in standard care. This equates to 2.75 times the background diagnosis rate.
Essex GP Dr Ian Greaves, whose in-practice memory service won a GP Enterprise Award in 2010, said he would welcome greater in-surgery screening. This would help GPs to address patients’ needs and cut hospital admissions, he said.
An Alzheimer’s Society spokesman said: ‘Dementia tests may be one way of catching people who would otherwise slip through the net. ‘We would welcome further research into the value of population testing in the UK.’
Up to 750,000 people have dementia in the UK but more than half are undiagnosed. In December, MPs announced an inquiry into dementia care.