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Alabama Brief Cognitive Screener: Utility of a New Cognitive Screening Instrument in a Memory Disorders Clinic

Marissa C. Natelson Love, MD; Giovanna Pilonieta, DDS, MPH; and David S. Geldmacher, MD

Published: March 14, 2019

Article Abstract

Objective: We assessed the clinical utility of the Alabama Brief Cognitive Screener (ABCs), an alternative to the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), for cognitive screening in a new electronic medical record. Other available nonproprietary instruments were determined to be more tuned to milder deficits than the MMSE.

Methods: The ABCs was administered as part of routine clinical assessment in the University of Alabama at Birmingham memory disorders clinics from April 30, 2012, to April 30, 2015. Outpatients (N = 1,589) with clinician diagnoses (ICD-9-CM) of memory loss, mild cognitive impairment, neurodegenerative cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s dementia, or dementia not otherwise specified were included in the analysis. Memory disorder clinicians used multiple sources of information for assignment of diagnoses, including interviews with patients and caregivers, the ABCs, figure copy, semantic fluencies, phonemic fluencies, ratings of daily function, imaging, laboratory tests, and medical records.

Results: Scoring distribution by diagnosis was mild cognitive impairment (n = 310): mean (SD) = 25.47 (3.37), median = 26; Alzheimer’s dementia (n = 208): mean (SD) = 16.42 (6.33), median = 17; cerebral degeneration (n = 371): mean (SD) = 20.61 (5.90), median = 21; memory loss (n = 583): mean (SD) = 24.90 (5.09), median = 27; and dementia (n = 117): mean (SD) = 15.18 (6.34), median = 15. Mean ABCs scores differed by diagnosis (Wilcoxon signed-ranks Z = 483.5, P < .001). This finding was consistent with a meta-analysis of MMSE performance between groups.

Conclusions: ABCs scores vary appropriately by diagnosis and resemble MMSE scoring distributions. The ABCs provides a nonproprietary alternative to the MMSE to assess the severity of cognitive deficits.

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