Screening for subjective cognitive decline in the elderly via subjective cognitive complaints and informant-reported questionnaires: a systematic review

BMC Anesthesiol. 2021 Nov 10;21(1):277. doi: 10.1186/s12871-021-01493-5.


Background: Subjective cognitive decline may represent at-risk persons progressing to mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which can be exacerbated by effects of anesthesia and surgery. The objective of this systematic review is to identify the most common questions in subjective cognitive complaint and informant-reported questionnaires used in assessing cognitive impairment of elderly patients that are correlated with standardized tests for cognitive impairment screening.

Methods: We searched Medline, PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database, Emcare Nursing, Web of Science, Scopus, CINAHL, ClinicalTrials.Gov, and ICTRP between September 20, 2005 to August 31, 2020. We included studies that evaluated subjective cognitive complaints and informant-reported questions in elderly patients.

Results and conclusion: A total of 28,407 patients were included from 22 studies that assessed 21 subjective complaint questionnaires and nine informant-reported questionnaires. The most common subjective cognitive complaints were those assessing anterograde memory, closely followed by perceptual-motor function and executive function. The most common informant-reported questions were those assessing executive function, temporal orientation, and anterograde memory. Questions assessing learning and memory were most associated with results from standardized tests assessing cognitive impairment. Assessing learning and memory plays a key role in evaluating subjective cognitive decline in elderly patients. Delivering subjective cognitive complaints questions to elderly patient preoperatively may aid in screening for those exhibiting cognitive signs, and in turn are at risk of postoperative complications. Thus, the results from this review contribute to knowledge for healthcare professionals regarding the use of subjective cognitive complaints and informant-reported complaints in preoperative settings.

Keywords: Elderly; Mild cognitive impairment; Reoperative screening; Screening; Subjective cognitive complaints; Subjective cognitive decline.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Memory / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Preoperative Care / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires