OBJECTIVE To review administration of the Standardized Mini-Mental State Examination (SMMSE) for dementia and depression and to evaluate how well it interprets older people’s cognitive function.
QUALITY OF EVIDENCE Literature from January 1990 to December 1999 was searched via MEDLINE using the MeSH headings Alzheimer Disease, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Bodies, and Depression. Several studies have described the reliability and validity of the SMMSE.
MAIN MESSAGE The SMMSE, a standardized approach to scoring and interpreting older people’s cognitive function, provides a global score of cognitive ability that correlates with daily function. Careful interpretation of results of the SMMSE, together with history and physical assessment, can assist in differential diagnosis of cognitive impairment resulting from Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, or depression. Repeated measurements can be used to assess change over time and response to treatment.
CONCLUSION The SMMSE is a valuable tool for family doctors who are often the first medical professionals to identify changes in patients’ cognitive function. The SMMSE requires little time to complete and is a key component of a comprehensive dementia workup. Determining whether a patient has dementia is important because there are now effective medications that are most beneficial if started early.