Original Study| Volume 11, ISSUE 5, P371-376, June 2010

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New Diagnoses of Dementia Among Older Patients Admitted to Postacute Care

  • Michele Ferretti
    Service of Geriatric Medicine and Geriatric Rehabilitation, Department of Medicine, University of Lausanne Medical Center (CHUV), Lausanne, Switzerland
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  • Laurence Seematter-Bagnoud
    Address correspondence to Laurence Seematter-Bagnoud, MD, MSc, Service of Geriatric Medicine and Geriatric Rehabilitation, CHUV, CUTR Sylvana, Ch de Sylvana # 10, CH-1066 Epalinges, Switzerland.
    Service of Geriatric Medicine and Geriatric Rehabilitation, Department of Medicine, University of Lausanne Medical Center (CHUV), Lausanne, Switzerland

    Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
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  • Estelle Martin
    Service of Geriatric Medicine and Geriatric Rehabilitation, Department of Medicine, University of Lausanne Medical Center (CHUV), Lausanne, Switzerland
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  • Christophe J. Büla
    Service of Geriatric Medicine and Geriatric Rehabilitation, Department of Medicine, University of Lausanne Medical Center (CHUV), Lausanne, Switzerland
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      To determine the prevalence of dementia and the proportion of undiagnosed dementia in elderly patients admitted to postacute care, and to identify patients' characteristics associated with undiagnosed dementia.


      Cross-sectional study.


      Academic postacute rehabilitation facility in Lausanne, Switzerland.


      Patients (N=1764) aged 70 years and older.


      Data on socio-demographic, medical, functional, and affective status were collected upon admission. Data on cognitive performance (Mini-Mental State Exam [MMSE]), and cognition-related discharge diagnoses were abstracted through a structured review of discharge summaries.


      Overall, 24.1% (425/1764) patients had a diagnosis of dementia, most frequently secondary to Alzheimer's disease (260/425, 61.2%). Among dementia cases, 70.8% (301/425) were newly diagnosed during postacute stay. This proportion was lower among patients referred from internal medicine than from orthopedic/surgery services (65.8% versus 74.8%, P=.042). Compared to patients with already diagnosed dementia, those newly diagnosed were older, lived alone more frequently, and had better functional status and MMSE score at admission (all P < .05). In multivariate analysis, previously undetected dementia remained associated with older age (OR=2.4 for age 85 years and older, 95% CI 1.5–4.0, P=.001) and normal MMSE at admission (OR=5.9, 95% CI 2.7–12.7, P < .001).


      Dementia was present in almost a fourth of elderly patients referred to postacute care, but was diagnosed in less than a third before admission. Oldest old patients appear especially at risk for underrecognition. These results emphasize the high diagnostic yield of systematic cognitive assessment in the postacute care setting to improve these patients' management and quality of life.


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