Routine cognitive screening at primary care clinics nearly tripled the number of diagnoses of brain-function impairment in older veterans, a new study found.
To assess the effect of screening on cognitive impairment diagnoses, J. Riley McCarten, MD, of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System and the University of Minnesota offered 8342 veterans, age 70 and older, brief screenings during routine visits to the VA clinic.
Of the 8342, 26% (2081) failed the screen and were offered further, more comprehensive evaluation, to which 580 agreed. Among those, 93% were found to have a form of cognitive impairment, including 75% with dementia.
Researchers noted that 118 patients who passed the brief screen also requested more comprehensive evaluation, and 87% were found to have cognitive impairment.
“Our study demonstrates that proactive strategies such as routine screening are well-accepted and effective in diagnosing cognitive impairment, and that primary care providers value the diagnostic and management services involved,” McCarten concluded.
Currently, the American College of Physicians, U.S. Preventive Health Task Force, and Alzheimer’s Association all maintain contrary standards to the findings, discouraging routine cognitive impairment screening in all patients except those currently displaying signs of dementia.