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Home > Research Articles > Quick checklist accurately predicts onset of Alzheimer disease

Canada NewsWire

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Canada NewsWire - June 10, 2003

TORONTO, Jun 10, 2003 (Canada NewsWire via COMTEX) -- A new checklist that involves asking patients and their caregivers six simple questions, such as day of the week, is an accurate predictor of the onset of Alzheimer disease.

The two-year study at Sunnybrook & Women's, published in the June 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, tracked 165 patients over the age of 60 who were suspected of suffering memory impairment but who had not been diagnosed with a dementia-related illness. Questions asked included day of the week, delayed recall, mood change, finding the right word, remembering short lists, and managing money.

"We found that the test accurately predicted the onset of Alzheimer's disease in 93 per cent of study participants," says Dr. Mary Tierney, Director of Geriatric Research at Sunnybrook & Women's and primary researcher for the study. "Not only is the test accurate, but it's also brief and easy for a family physician or other clinician to administer, taking only about five minutes during a routine check-up, provided someone who knows them well is there with them."

In conjunction with the study, the creators of the new six-item model have developed a web site to assist clinicians with the calculations involved. Once a patient's age, education, and test scores have been entered, the site completes the calculations and returns results that represent the patient's probability of developing Alzheimer's disease over the next two years.

The new six-item model builds on its widely used precursor, the Mini- Mental State Examination (MMSE). The accuracy of the MMSE as a clinical tool has recently come into question, as its ability to predict future Alzheimer's disease in patients suspected of memory impairment has been shown to be limited.

The study aimed to determine whether the accuracy of the MMSE could be improved by the addition of patient and caregiver perceptions of cognitive difficulties. Dr. Tierney, also an Associate Professor of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto said, "our results indicate that the inclusion of caregiver perceptions - not patient perceptions - had a significant impact on its accuracy."

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