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Original Research

Documentation of Antipsychotic Use and Indications for Newly Diagnosed, Nonaggressive Dementia Patients

Nikhil Dhawan Avila B. Steele Robert O. Morgan A. Lynn Snow Jessica A. Davila Mark E. Kunik

Published: April 15, 2008

Article Abstract

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of antipsychotic use among nonaggressive patients with newly diagnosed dementia and to examine indications for antipsychotic use.

Method: Patients had to be veterans older than 60 years, newly diagnosed with dementia (ICD-9-CM criteria) from 2001 to 2004 at the Michael A. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston, Tex. Patients diagnosed more than 1 year before telephone screening, living in a nursing home or having a caregiver less than 8 hours a week, and/or having aggression, determined by caregiver response on the Ryden Aggression Scale, were excluded. Medical records of eligible participants were then evaluated on the basis of 5 questions: (1) Was the patient taking an antipsychotic? (2) Were neuropsychiatric symptoms documented, with or without antipsychotics? (3) Did the patient have comorbid psychiatric diagnoses? (4) Did the physician attempt to decrease or discontinue the antipsychotic? and (5) Did the physician attempt nonpharmacologic interventions?

Results: A total of 173 patients were eligible for medical record evaluation. Of these, 29 (17%) had been prescribed antipsychotics. Depression, nighttime disturbance, and irritability were the most often documented neuropsychiatric symptoms; however, 31% of patients had no documented symptoms. Mood disorder was documented in 36% of patient records; however, 94 patients (54%) had no comorbid psychiatric disorder. Twelve nonpharmacologic interventions were documented for dementia symptoms. Only 2 attempts to discontinue or decrease antipsychotics for the 29 patients using them were documented.

Conclusion: A sizable minority of newly diagnosed, nonaggressive dementia patients are taking antipsychotics. Physicians need greater education and awareness of the benefits of nonpharmacologic interventions.

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