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J Am Geriatr Soc. 1992 May;40(5):479-81.

Sensitivity and specificity of death certificate diagnoses for dementing illnesses, 1988-1990.

Author information

1
Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia 29208.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate the extent to which mortality data, which is often used to track secular trends for specific diseases, underestimates the prevalence of dementia.

DESIGN:

Retrospective analysis of existing data.

SETTING:

Department of Mental Health inpatient facilities in South Carolina.

SUBJECTS:

Inpatients at Department of Mental Health facilities who were listed in the South Carolina Statewide Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Registry and who died between 1988 and 1990 (n = 450).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Sensitivity and specificity of dementia diagnoses on death certificates compared to medical record diagnoses for inpatients with a pre-mortem dementia diagnosis.

RESULTS:

Twenty-three percent of death certificates contained any dementia diagnosis (104/450). The sensitivity of death certificates varied by type of dementia (28 percent for Alzheimer's disease; 8 percent for multi-infarct dementia) as well as by race, sex, and age.

CONCLUSIONS:

Mortality statistics substantially underestimate the prevalence of dementing illnesses and do not fully represent the public health burden of dementia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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