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Stroke. 2013 Nov;44(11):3078-83. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.113.001724. Epub 2013 Aug 29.

Test accuracy of short screening tests for diagnosis of delirium or cognitive impairment in an acute stroke unit setting.

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From the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences (R.L., T.J.Q.) and Undergraduate Medical School (S.C., C.J., E.M., G.S.), College of Medial, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.



Guidelines recommend cognitive screening in acute stroke. Various instruments are available, with no consensus on a preferred tool. We aimed to describe test accuracy of brief screening tools for diagnosis of cognitive impairment and delirium in acute stroke.


We collected data on sequential stroke unit admission in a single center. Four assessors trained in cognitive testing independently performed screening and reference tests. Brief assessments comprised the following: 10- and 4-point Abbreviated Mental Test (AMT-10; AMT-4); 4-A Test (4AT); Clock Drawing Test (CDT); Cog-4; and Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). We also recorded the multidisciplinary team's informal review using single question (SQ). We compared against reference standards of Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) and Confusion Assessment Method for delirium using usual diagnostic cutpoints. For MoCA, we described effects of lowering the diagnostic threshold to MoCA <24 and MoCA <20. We described sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values.


Over a 10-week period, 111 subjects had cognitive assessment data. Subjects were 50% male (n=55), and median age was 74 years (interquartile range, 64-85). AMT-4, AMT-10, and SQ all had excellent (1.00) specificity for detection of cognitive impairment, although sensitivity was poor (all <0.60). The 4AT had greatest sensitivity for detecting delirium (1.00 [confidence interval [CI], 0.74-1.00]) and reasonable specificity (0.82 [CI, 0.72-0.89]). Properties of 4AT for detection of cognitive impairment, at the traditional MoCA threshold, were also good (sensitivity, 0.86; specificity, 0.78). Using diagnostic thresholds of MoCA ≤26, <24, and <20 gave proportions with cognitive impairments of 86%, 61%, and 49%, respectively, with resulting changes in screening test properties. At lower MoCA thresholds, CDT had favorable sensitivity and specificity (MoCA <20: sensitivity, 0.93, specificity, 0.66; MoCA <24: sensitivity, 0.85, specificity, 0.77).


Many brief screening assessments are specific but not sensitive for detection of cognitive impairment in acute stroke. Our primary analysis suggests that 4AT is a reasonable choice for delirium and cognitive screening in this setting. However, these data are based on standard MoCA diagnostic threshold and may not be suited for an acute stroke population.


cognitive impairment; delirium; measures; outcomes assessment; sensitivity ▪ specificity; stroke

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