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The Anticholinergic Effect on Cognition (AEC) Scale - Associations with Mortality, Hospitalisation and Cognitive Decline Following Dementia Diagnosis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2020

King's Authors


Objectives: To investigate associations between central anticholinergic burden, as determined through the Anticholinergic Effect on Cognition (AEC) scale, and mortality, hospitalisation and cognitive decline in patients with dementia.
Methods: The South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) Clinical Records Interactive Search (CRIS) application was used to identify patients with a first diagnosis of dementia. Medication exposure was extracted through a natural language processing algorithm, allowing for calculations and comparisons of AEC scores. Data were linked to national mortality and hospitalisation data sources, and serially recorded Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores were used to investigate cognitive decline.
Results: We identified 14,093 patients with dementia, 60.7% were female and the mean age at diagnosis was 79.8 years. Patients for whom a review of their medication was indicated (AEC score ≥ 2 for any individual drug or total AEC score ≥ 3) had an increased risk of mortality (hazard ratio 1.07; 95% CI: 1.01-1.15) and emergency hospitalisation (1.10; 95% CI: 1.04-1.17), but there were no associations with duration of hospitalisation. Cognitive trajectory analyses showed that this exposure group had lower MMSE scores at diagnosis and a sharper increase in MMSE scores over the subsequent 6 months, but similar slopes for the 6-36 months period compared to the remainder of the sample.
Conclusions: Patients with dementia receiving medication with high central anticholinergic activity (as measured on the AEC scale), appear to have worse prognosis in terms of mortality and hospitalisation risk, but have primarily acutely impaired cognitive function, rather than longer term differences in cognitive decline.

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