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Primary Care Screening for Dementia Not Harmful

TUESDAY, Jan. 21, 2020 -- No harms come from screening for Alzheimer disease and related dementias (ADRDs) in primary care, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Nicole R. Fowler, Ph.D., from the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, and colleagues randomly assigned 4,005 patients (mean age, 74.2 years; 66 percent female; 67 percent white) seen in urban, suburban, and rural primary care settings to ADRD screening (2,008 patients) or control (1,997 patients).

The researchers found that at 12 months, there were no differences in health-related quality of life between the groups. Differences in mean depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms at one month were within a prespecified equivalency range. At all time points, scores for depressive and anxiety symptoms were similar between the groups. Additionally, at 12 months, there were no differences in health care utilization, advance care planning, or ADRD recognition by physicians.

"This study is groundbreaking because we have scientifically negated the concern that dementia screening may be harmful," a coauthor said in a statement. "Until now, the lack of evidence of potential harm of dementia screening has been a barrier to dementia screening in primary care. Hopefully our finding of no harm from screening has eliminated this obstacle."

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Posted: January 2020

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