Cognitive screening in the acute stroke setting

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Background: current literature suggests that two-thirds of patients will have cognitive impairment at 3 months post-stroke. Post-stroke cognitive impairment is associated with impaired function and increased mortality. UK guidelines recommend all patients with stroke have a cognitive assessment within 6 weeks. There is no ‘gold standard’ cognitive screening tool. The Montreal cognitive assessment (MoCA) is more sensitive than the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) in mild cognitive impairment and for cognitive impairment in the non-acute post-stroke setting and in a Chinese-speaking acute stroke setting.

Methods: a convenience sample of 50 patients, admitted with stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA), were screened within 14 days, using the MoCA and the MMSE.

Results: the mean MoCA was 21.80 versus a mean MMSE of 26.98; 70% were impaired on the MoCA (cut-off <26) versus 26% on MMSE (cut-off <27). The MoCA could be completed in <10 min in 90% of cases.

Conclusion: the MoCA is easy and quick to use in the acute stroke setting. Further work is required to determine whether a low score on the MoCA in the acute stroke setting will predict the cognitive and functional status and to explore what the best cut-off should be in an acute post-stroke setting.

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