Background: This study compared individuals whose clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) matched or did not match neuropathologic results at autopsy on clinical and functional outcomes (cognitive impairment, functional status and neuropsychiatric symptoms). The study also assessed the extent of potentially inappropriate medication use (using potentially unnecessary medications or potentially inappropriate prescribing) among misdiagnosed patients.
Methods: Longitudinal data from the National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center Uniform Data Set (NACC-UDS, 2005-2010) and corresponding NACC neuropathological data were utilized to compare 88 misdiagnosed and 438 accurately diagnosed patients.
Results: Following adjustment of sociodemographic characteristics, the misdiagnosed were found to have less severe cognitive and functional impairment. However, after statistical adjustment for sociodemographics, dementia severity level, time since onset of cognitive decline and probable AD diagnosis at baseline, the groups significantly differed on only one outcome: the misdiagnosed were less likely to be depressed/dysphoric. Among the misdiagnosed, 18.18% were treated with potentially inappropriate medication. An additional analysis noted this rate could be as high as 67.10%.
Conclusions: Findings highlight the importance of making an accurate AD diagnosis to help reduce unnecessary treatment and increase appropriate therapy. Additional research is needed to demonstrate the link between potentially inappropriate treatment and adverse health outcomes in misdiagnosed AD patients.