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New Recommendation Statement on Screening for Cognitive Impairment

Task force unable to rule on value of routine screening in older adults (November 5)

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has posted its draft recommendation statement on screening for cognitive impairment.

The task force concludes that there is not enough clear evidence on the benefits and harms of screening for cognitive impairment to make a recommendation for or against routine screening of all older adults. This draft recommendation applies to adults without signs or symptoms of cognitive impairment. Those with symptoms of memory loss or other cognitive problems should talk to their doctor about testing.

“Dementia is a very serious issue that has a significant impact on the lives of older adults and their families,” says USPSTF co-vice chair Albert Siu, MD, MSPH. “Although the benefits and harms of what we can offer patients through routine screening are unclear right now, clinicians should remain alert to early signs or symptoms of cognitive impairment and evaluate their patients as appropriate.”

Dementia, a type of cognitive impairment that affects 2.4 to 5.5 million Americans, causes a person to have trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect daily life. Mild cognitive impairment is a type of cognitive problem that is not as severe as dementia and does not interfere with independence in daily life.

While there is some evidence that screening can accurately detect mild to moderate dementia, the USPSTF found no studies on how early detection can help older adults and their families make decisions about health care and plan for the future.

“This is a critical gap in the evidence, and more research is needed so we can better understand the benefits and risks of screening and understand the impact early detection can have on the lives of patients and their families,” said task force member Douglas K. Owens, MD, MS.

The draft recommendation statement has been posted for public comment on the USPSTF Web site.

Source: USPSTF; November 5, 2013.

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