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People with neuropsychiatric symptoms often experience delay in accurate diagnosis. Although cerebrospinal fluid neurofilament light (CSF NfL) shows promise in distinguishing neurodegenerative disorders (ND) from psychiatric disorders (PSY), its accuracy in a diagnostically challenging cohort longitudinally is unknown.
We collected longitudinal diagnostic information (mean = 36 months) from patients assessed at a neuropsychiatry service, categorising diagnoses as ND/mild cognitive impairment/other neurological disorders (ND/MCI/other) and PSY. We pre-specified NfL > 582 pg/mL as indicative of ND/MCI/other.
Diagnostic category changed from initial to final diagnosis for 23% (49/212) of patients. NfL predicted the final diagnostic category for 92% (22/24) of these and predicted final diagnostic category overall (ND/MCI/other vs. PSY) in 88% (187/212), compared to 77% (163/212) with clinical assessment alone.
CSF NfL improved diagnostic accuracy, with potential to have led to earlier, accurate diagnosis in a real-world setting using a pre-specified cut-off, adding weight to translation of NfL into clinical practice.
While early diagnosis of younger-onset dementia (YOD) is crucial in terms of accessing appropriate services and future planning, diagnostic delays are common. This study aims to identify predictors of delay to diagnosis in a large sample of people with YOD and to investigate the impact of a specialist YOD service on this time to diagnosis.
A retrospective cross-sectional study.
The inpatient unit of a tertiary neuropsychiatry service in metropolitan Victoria, Australia.
People diagnosed with a YOD.
Measurements and methods:
We investigated the following predictors using general linear modeling: demographics including sex and location, age at onset, dementia type, cognition, psychiatric diagnosis, and number of services consulted with prior to diagnosis.
A total of 242 inpatients were included. The mean time to diagnosis was 3.4 years. Significant predictors of delay included younger age at onset, dementia type other than Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), and increased number of services consulted. These predictors individually led to an increased diagnostic delay of approximately 19 days, 5 months, and 6 months, respectively. A specialized YOD service reduced time to diagnosis by 12 months.
We found that younger age at onset, having a dementia which was not the most commonly occurring AD or bvFTD, and increasing number of services were significant predictors of diagnostic delay. A novel result was that a specialist YOD service may decrease diagnostic delay, highlighting the importance of such as service in reducing time to diagnosis as well as providing post-diagnostic support.
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