Wednesday, June 1, 2011

News flash: Dementia is confusing & doctors should communicate

I can't resist candidates for the Dept. of the Blith. Obv.: Many geriatric patients receive an incorrect dementia diagnosis. 

The final diagnosis was determined by postmortem autopsies examining structures and changes in the brain, which are pretty definitive.

Most dementias are currently incurable, and only some can even be managed. So why does this matter?

Two reasons: the clinical and the academic -- which is ultimately clinical, too. 

Firstly -- and I'm speaking as someone who has skirted dementia myself -- if anything can be done to mitigate this hideous state, it should be done. Correct diagnosis improves your chances of getting appropriate care. 

Secondly, incorrect diagnoses screw up the data. How can we evolve our understanding, improve diagnostic criteria, develop more effective treatment, and work on actual cures, if we aren't clear about what we're working with and how it plays out?

What's lovely and touching about this is, the researchers truly believed that correct diagnoses were much more common, and that the communications between the neurology department and the geriatric psychiatry clinic were better than they were ... and that they changed their stance dramatically in response to their findings. 

Knowing how cautiously physician researchers normally phrase recommendations, and how neutral and respectful Swedes prefer to be, the researcher's closing remarks sound like a passionate cry from the heart. It's really moving. 

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