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Diagnosis

The Neurobehavior and Memory Clinic at Northwestern Medicine is affiliated with our center and offers clinical consultations to patients, families and providers, including diagnostic evaluations, second opinions and supportive services. 

A comprehensive mild cognitive impairment (MCI) evaluation by a specialist (cognitive neurologist or geriatric psychiatrist) can help in two ways: 

  1. Identify whether MCI is present 
  2. Identify the potential cause of MCI 
     

This evaluation includes screening for other causes of MCI such as depression, sleep disorders and medications. Blood tests may be ordered to ensure that thyroid, liver and kidney functions are normal since malfunction can affect cognitive functions. An MRI of the brain may be obtained to assess for possible strokes, tumors or other brain abnormalities that also can cause cognitive impairment. Testing by a neuropsychologist can help identify cognitive abnormalities and estimate the degree of cognitive impairment. Finally, if MCI due to Alzheimer's disease (AD) is suspected, a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) may be obtained to measure the buildup of proteins (amyloid and tau) of AD in the brain. 

People with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) have an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease dementia or related dementia (e.g., frontotemporal dementia), especially if the main change is in short-term memory. This progression is likely to occur within five years of the diagnosis of MCI. However, not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s disease dementia or a related dementia. 

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