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Int Rev Psychiatry. 2008 Aug;20(4):396-404. doi: 10.1080/09540260802099968.

Neuropsychiatric symptoms in dementia: importance and treatment considerations.

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Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases, Guy's Campus, King's College London.


Neuropsychiatric symptoms are frequent in people with dementia, result in distress for the people experiencing them and their caregivers, and are a common precipitant of institutional care. The safe and effective treatment of these symptoms is a key clinical priority, but is a long way from being achieved. Psychological interventions are recommended as the first line treatment strategy in most good practice guidelines, and there is emerging evidence of efficacy for agitation and depression. Neuroleptics remain the mainstay of pharmacological treatment, although meta-analyses indicate that they are mainly of benefit for the short-term (up to 12 weeks) treatment of aggression in people with Alzheimer's disease, and there have been increasing concerns about serious adverse effects including mortality. The evidence is limited for other pharmacological approaches for the treatment of agitation, and psychosis in people with Alzheimer's disease is limited, but post-hoc analyses do indicate that memantine may be a promising therapy and aromatherapy may be a useful alternative. Autopsy studies indicate that the adrenergic system may be an important therapeutic target. Clinical experience suggests that antidepressants are effective in people with severe depression in the context of dementia, but the evidence base regarding the broader value of antidepressants is far from clear. There are very few trials specifically focusing upon the treatment of neuropsychiatric symptoms in common non-Alzheimer dementias, which is a major limitation and urgently needs to be addressed to provide an evidence base to enable the safe and effective treatment of these individuals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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