Links To The 2020 “Screening for Cognitive Impairment in Older Adults: An Evidence Update for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force”

In this post, I link to the 2020 Screening for Cognitive Impairment in Older Adults: An Evidence Update for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force [Full-Text HTML] [Full-Text PDF]. Evidence Synthesis, No. 189. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2020 Feb.
Report No.: 19-05257-EF-1

All that follows is excerpted from the above resource.

Excerpts From The Structured Abstract:

Structured Abstract


We conducted this systematic review to support the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in updating its 2014 recommendation on screening for cognitive impairment in older adults. Our review addressed the direct evidence on the benefits and harms of screening for cognitive impairment versus no screening, the test accuracy of screening instruments to detect mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia, and the benefits and harms of treatment for MCI and mild to moderate dementia among community-dwelling older adults age 65 years and older.

Data Sources:

We performed an updated search of MEDLINE, PubMed Publisher-Supplied, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials for studies published through January 2019. We supplemented searches by examining reference lists from related articles and expert recommendations and searched federal and international trial registries for ongoing trials.

Study Selection:

Two researchers reviewed 11,644 titles and abstracts and 966 full-text articles against prespecified inclusion criteria. We included test accuracy studies that included screening instruments that could be delivered in primary care in 10 minutes or less by a clinician or self-administered in 20 minutes or less compared with a reference standard. We included trials of major pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions in persons with MCI or mild to moderate dementia and large, observational studies examining adverse effects of these interventions. We conducted dual, independent critical appraisal of all provisionally included studies and abstracted all important study details and results from all studies rated fair or good quality. Data were abstracted by one reviewer and confirmed by another.


Several brief screening instruments can adequately detect cognitive impairment, especially in populations with a higher prevalence of underlying dementia. There is no empiric evidence, however, that screening for cognitive impairment or early diagnosis of cognitive impairment improves patient, caregiver, family, or clinician decision making or other important outcomes nor causes harm. In general, there is support that AChEIs and memantine and interventions that support caregivers, including those that help coordinate care for patients and caregivers, can result in small improvements in the short term. Unfortunately, the average effects of these benefits are quite small and likely not of clinical significance. Any benefits are further limited by the commonly experienced side effects of medications and the limited availability of complex caregiver interventions. Cognitive stimulation and training, exercise interventions, and other medications and supplements showed some favorable effects on patients’ cognitive and physical function, but trial evidence lacked consistency and the estimates of benefit were imprecise. There is less evidence related to screening for and treating MCI. The test performance of the few instruments evaluated to detect MCI was lower than the sensitivity and specificity to detect dementia and there is little evidence for any pharmacologic or nonpharmacologic interventions to preserve or improve patient functioning in persons with MCI.

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