Objective: Patients with mild cognitive impairment account for a significant number of referrals to old age psychiatry services and specialist memory clinics. The cognitive evaluation of such patients is commonly restricted to brief dementia screens, with no consideration to their suitability for assessing MCI. Here, we review the utility of such cognitive screens for MCI and provide an overview of validated instruments.
Methods: We identified papers published after Petersen and colleagues 1999 MCI criteria (Petersen et al., 1999) and examining face-to-face cognitive screening for MCI from publication databases using combinations of the search terms 'mild cognitive impairment' and 'cognitive screening'. We also combined the former search with the names of 39 screening tests recently identified in a relevant review (Cullen et al., 2007).
Results: Fifteen cognitive screening instruments were identified, 11 cover a restricted range of cognitive domains. High sensitivity and specificity for MCI relative to healthy controls were reported for two comprehensive and two noncomprehensive screening instruments, adequate test-retest and inter-rater reliability for only one of these. With the exception of three studies, sample sizes were universally small (i.e. n </= 100), and prognostic values were reported for only two of the identified 15 screening measures. Sensitivities of the full domain measures were universally high, but information about their specificity against psychiatric and non-progressive neurological conditions and predictive validity is lacking.
Conclusion: Several cognitive screening instruments afford the clinician the ability to detect MCI, early AD, and in some cases non-AD dementia, but they cannot currently be used to make reliable inferences about the course and eventual outcome of MCI.