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March 13, 1981

Senility Reconsidered

Author Affiliations

Veterans Administration Medical Center Minneapolis

JAMA. 1981;245(10):1025-1026. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03310350015008

To the Editor.—  The task force sponsored by the National Institute on Aging described (1980;244:259) numerous causes of mental impairment in the elderly and identified a need to determine the frequency of reversible causes for this syndrome. The previous studies cited suffer from being retrospective and reporting potentially reversible causes rather than true outcome of therapy.1,2 I would like to report the findings of a recently completed prospective study of 100 consecutive patients seen for apparent mental impairment and to relate their treatment outcomes.Standard diagnostic criteria described elsewhere were employed.3 Of the 100 cases evaluated for apparent dementing illnesses, eight were found not to have mental impairment. The remaining 92 cases were diagnosed as follows: probable Alzheimer's type dementia (22); diffuse or Korsakoff's alcoholic dementia (12); functional psychiatric disorders (18); multiinfarct dementia (12); CreutzfeldtJakob disease (2); nutritional, metabolic, or endocrine disturbances (9); space-occupying lesions (4); occult hydrocephalus