Expert opinion: prioritise standard assessment for diagnosing dementia

Tuesday, 25 May, 2021

Expert opinion: prioritise standard assessment for diagnosing dementia

International experts in dementia and cognitive assessment — including researchers from UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) — have acknowledged that a standard assessment for individuals presenting with cognitive difficulty is an international priority.

To ensure consistency in diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment and dementia, the invited experts have provided their opinion on the development of a standard set of neuropsychological tests for patients presenting to memory clinics.

Different tests have been shown to be more sensitive to different disorders, which can lead to varied diagnoses for patients. CHeBA Neuropsychology Group Leader Dr Nicole Kochan said that the testing process not only differed across regions and countries but also among local clinics here in Australia.

“This research recommends a uniform set of tests that a person should receive when attending a memory clinic to receive a comprehensive assessment of their cognition, thinking abilities and problem-solving,” Dr Kochan said.

“Standard diagnostic procedures then ensure best practice and consistency across diagnosis of dementia.”

Many efforts have been made internationally to tackle this problem.

In Australia, CHeBA’s experts are involved with the Australian Dementia Network (ADNeT), which aims to develop unified guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of neurocognitive disorders and create a network of memory clinics.

The consensus, published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia and led by Dr Marina Boccardi at DZNE-Rostock, clearly defines a European standard for the cognitive assessment within memory clinics.

This includes best-performing traditional and new tests that are sensitive to the typical memory deficits of Alzheimer’s disease and to a range of other neurodegenerative conditions.

The research highlights that a standard assessment would allow cognitive assessment results to be immediately comparable across centres and clinics. This would also benefit research via pooled data from different centres.

CHeBA Co-Directors Professor Henry Brodaty and Professor Perminder Sachdev said that, ultimately, a standardised test will assist with early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and related neurocognitive disorders, ensuring greater access to new clinical trials and person-centred care.

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