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Task force doesn’t recommend screening for cognitive impairment


In a draft statement, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against routine screening for cognitive impairment in all older adults.

Comments on the draft statement will be accepted until Dec. 2, after which the task force will issue its final recommendation. The recommendation applies to adults without signs or symptoms of cognitive impairment; those with symptoms of memory loss or other cognitive problems should consult a clinician about testing.

“Dementia is a very serious issue that has a significant impact on the lives of older adults and their families,” task force co-vice chairman Albert Siu, MD, MSPH, said in a news release. “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 affects between 2.4 million and 5.5 million Americans, according to the news release. Mild cognitive impairment is less severe than dementia and does not interfere with independence in daily life.

For the new recommendation, the task force looked at evidence on screening for these more subtle signs of cognitive issues.

“Although screening for cognitive impairment can identify persons with dementia, there is no empirical evidence on whether interventions affect clinician, patient or family decision-making,” according to the recommendation.

A lack of information on the effects of screening represents “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 lives of patients and their families,” task force member Douglas K. Owens, MD, MS, said in the news release.

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