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J Natl Med Assoc. 1995 December; 87(12): 872–876.
PMCID: PMC2607975

Misdiagnosis among older psychiatric patients.


The first 13 consecutive referrals to a newly established Geriatric Psychiatry Research Division (GPRD) at a community mental health center (CMHC) in Baltimore, Maryland, were evaluated with the structured clinical interview (SCID) from the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Revised (DSM-III-R). Although the referring primary diagnoses were confirmed in 54% of patients (7 of 13), an average of three new diagnoses were made for each patient that had not been considered. Of the remaining six patients, four (67%) patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia were found to have a diagnosis of affective disorder based on the SCID interview (two patients with bipolar disorder, depressed and two patients with schizoaffective disorder, depressed). In the remaining two (33%) patients, one patient had a diagnosis of mixed dementia due to longstanding alcohol abuse with a superimposed primary degenerative dementia of the Alzheimer's type. The remaining patient's initial diagnosis of dementia associated with alcoholism was changed to bipolar disorder, depressed. These results provide support for the hypothesis that older persons with psychiatric illness may have been misdiagnosed at a time of less diagnostic rigor.

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