Assessing and disclosing test results for ‘mild cognitive impairment’: the perspective of old age psychiatrists in Scotland

Stina Saunders, Craig W. Ritchie, Tom C. Russ, Graciela Muniz-terrera, Richard Milne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition that exists between normal healthy ageing and dementia with an uncertain aetiology and prognosis. This uncertainty creates a complex dynamic between the clinicians' conception of MCI, what is communicated to the individual about their condition, and how the individual responds to the information conveyed to them. The aim of this study was to explore clinicians' views around the assessment and communication of MCI in memory clinics.

METHOD: As part of a larger longitudinal study looking at patients' adjustment to MCI disclosure, we interviewed Old Age Psychiatrists at the five participating sites across Scotland. The study obtained ethics approvals and the interviews (carried out between Nov 2020-Jan 2021) followed a semi-structured schedule focusing on [1] how likely clinicians are to use the term MCI with patients; [2] what tests clinicians rely on and how much utility they see in them; and [3] how clinicians communicate risk of progression to dementia. The interviews were voice recorded and were analysed using reflective thematic analysis.

RESULTS: Initial results show that most clinicians interviewed (Total N = 19) considered MCI to have significant limitations as a diagnostic term. Nevertheless, most clinicians reported using the term MCI (n = 15/19). Clinical history was commonly described as the primary aid in the diagnostic process and also to rule out functional impairment (which was sometimes corroborated by Occupational Therapy assessment). All clinicians reported using the Addenbrooke's Cognitive Examination-III as a primary assessment tool. Neuroimaging was frequently found to have minimal usefulness due to the neuroradiological reports being non-specific.

CONCLUSION: Our study revealed a mixture of approaches to assessing and disclosing test results for MCI. Some clinicians consider the condition as a separate entity among neurodegenerative disorders whereas others find the term unhelpful due to its uncertain prognosis. Clinicians report a lack of specific and sensitive assessment methods for identifying the aetiology of MCI in clinical practice. Our study demonstrates a broad range of views and therefore variability in MCI risk disclosure in memory assessment services which may impact the management of individuals with MCI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number50
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Early online date12 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
  • Pre-dementia stages
  • Risk disclosure


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