Research Article

Diagnosing dementia: do we get it right?

BMJ 1988; 297 doi: (Published 08 October 1988) Cite this as: BMJ 1988;297:894
  1. A. C. Homer,
  2. M. Honavar,
  3. P. L. Lantos,
  4. I. R. Hastie,
  5. J. M. Kellett,
  6. P. H. Millard
  1. Department of Geriatric Medicine, Jenner Wing, St George's Hospital Medical School, London.


    To find out whether the diagnosis of dementia agreed with findings at necropsy a detailed assessment of 27 elderly patients (mean age 82 (range 70-94] presenting with dementia was conducted at a combined department of geriatric medicine and psychiatry for the elderly. On the basis of the results the cause of the dementia was diagnosed clinically. Neuropathological examinations were performed after death. The clinical diagnosis made during life was not supported by the findings at necropsy in 11 cases. Alzheimer's disease was overdiagnosed in life (13 cases, of which only six were confirmed at necropsy). Although the clinical investigation was limited by availability of resources, neither cranial computed tomography nor the Hachinski score helped to distinguish between multi-infarct dementia and Alzheimer's disease in this age group. This study confirms the value of neuropathological studies in the precise diagnosis of dementia.