BACKGROUND: Although the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) corresponds to a condition likely to progress to dementia, essentially Alzheimer's disease, longitudinal studies have shown that some patients may not convert to dementia and maintain the diagnosis of MCI even after many years.
OBJECTIVES: To determine whether patients that maintain the diagnosis of MCI in the long term (10 years) are really stable or just declining slowly, and to identify clinical and neuropsychological characteristics associated with long-term stability.
METHODS: The Cognitive Complaints Cohort (CCC) was searched for MCI cases who maintained that diagnosis for at least 10 years. For each long-term-stable MCI patient, two MCI patients that converted to dementia during follow-up, matched for age and education, were selected from the same database. The baseline and last neuropsychological evaluations for long-term-stable MCI and converter MCI were compared. Baseline neuropsychological predictors of long-term stability were searched for.
RESULTS: Long-term-stable MCI (n = 22) and converter MCI (n = 44) patients did not differ in terms of gender distribution, education, age at first assessment and time between symptom onset and first evaluation. Time of follow-up was on average 11 years for long-term-stable MCI and 3 years for converter MCI. The baseline and follow-up neuropsychological tests were not significantly different in long-term-stable MCI patients, whereas a general decline was observed in converter MCI patients. Higher scores on one memory test, the Word Delayed Total Recall, and on the non-verbal abstraction test, Raven's Progressive Matrices, at the baseline predicted long-term (10 years) clinical stability.
CONCLUSIONS: Some patients with MCI remain clinically and neuropsychologically stable for a decade. Better performances at baseline in memory and non-verbal abstraction tests predict long-term stability.
- mild cognitive impairment
- neuropsychological tests