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New Test Could Spot Dementia Earlier

7-minute test detects milder signs, developers say

THURSDAY, Nov. 2, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A new means of spotting dementia can detect early, mild cognitive problems in elderly people that are missed by a standard test, U.S. researchers say.

According to researchers at Saint Louis University, where the new tool was developed, it takes about seven minutes to administer The Saint Louis University Mental Status Examination (SLUMS), in which patients are asked to perform tasks such as simple math calculations, naming animals, recalling facts, and drawing the hands on a clock.

The researchers compared the new screen to the most commonly used cognition test, the Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE).

"The Mini Mental Status Examination has limitations, especially with regard to its use in more educated patients and as a screen for mild neurocognitive disorder," study lead author Dr. Syed Tariq, associate professor of geriatric medicine, said in a prepared statement.

Tariq and his colleagues compared SLUMS and MMSE in 705 men, aged 60 and older. The researchers found that both tools detected dementia, but only SLUMS identified patients with mild cognitive problems.

"SLUMS has the advantage in that it can help the clinician identify patients with mild neurocognitive disorder on the initial visit, compared to MMSE, which requires a follow-up screening," Tariq said.

"This early detection of mild neurocognitive disorder by SLUMS offers the opportunity for the clinicians to begin early treatment as it becomes available," he added.

The study was published in the November issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about dementia.

SOURCE: Saint Louis University, news release, Nov. 1, 2006
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