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New test can diagnose dementia in three to five minutes

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | August 12, 2015
Alzheimers/Neurology Population Health
Dr. James E. Galvin
It usually takes physicians about four or five hours to diagnose dementia, but a neurologist at Florida Atlantic University has developed a new test called the Quick Dementia Rating System (QDRS) that a layperson can perform in three to five minutes.

"After extensive testing and evaluation of the Quick Dementia Rating System, we have found it to be as effective as the gold standard used today to screen for the five stages of dementia," Dr. James E. Galvin said in a statement. "This new tool gives you a lot of power to see the same results as a full screening in a fraction of the time it takes for a complete screening."

The study that investigated the effectiveness of the test recruited 267 participants with various forms of dementia and 32 healthy controls. The study participants also included their spouses/significant others, adult children, relatives, friends and paid caregivers who completed the QDRS.

The QDRS uses an evidence-based methodology to effectively differentiate people with and without dementia. If the individual does have dementia, it determines whether it is very mild, mild, moderate or severe.

QDRS is a 10-item questionnaire with scores that range from zero to 30 — the higher scores represent greater cognitive impairment. The questionnaire asks about the individuals’ memory and recall, orientation, decision-making and problem-solving abilities, activities outside the home, function at home and hobbies, toileting and personal hygiene, behavior and personality changes, language and communication abilities, mood and attention and concentration.

The majority of patients never undergo an evaluation by a neurologist, geriatric psychiatrist or geriatrician skilled in dementia diagnoses and staging, but early detection is important to bring forth future interventions at the earliest stages when they will most likely be effective.

"The QDRS has the potential to provide a clearer, more accurate staging for those patients who are unable to see these more specialized clinicians and get them the treatment, referrals and community services they so desperately need,” Galvin said in a statement.

Galvin is currently striving to improve detection by combining biomarkers including high density EEG, functional and structural MR, PET scans and CSF biomarkers to differentiate and characterize Lewy Body Dementia from healthy aging and other neurodegenerative diseases.

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