Objective: Practical screening methods are necessary to detect neurocognitive impairment (NCI) in HIV-infected patients. We aimed to find a brief and feasible paper-based tool to facilitate the diagnosis of an HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder.
Methods: A total of 106 HIV-infected outpatients with variable clinical characteristics were recruited in a multicenter investigation. NCI was diagnosed using a standardized neuropsychological tests battery (7 areas, 21 measures, ∼2 hours). Multiple score combinations were compared to find a paper-based method that took ≤10 minutes to apply. The presence of NCI was considered the gold standard for comparisons, and the sensitivity and specificity were calculated.
Results: Subjects were mostly middle-aged (median, 44 years) men (87%) on antiretroviral treatment. NCI was detected in 51 individuals (48%) and was associated with lower nadir CD4 count (P < 0.001), receiving antiretroviral therapy (P = 0.004), fewer years of education (P = 0.009), and presence of comorbidities (P < 0.001). The score combination that showed the highest sensitivity (74.5%) and specificity (81.8%) detecting NCI included 3 measures of attention/working memory, executive functioning, and verbal fluency (part A of Trail Making Test, part B of Trail Making Test, and Controlled Oral Word Association Test scores). A broader paper-based selection of measures covering 7 areas indicated a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 96.3% (7 measures, ∼35 minutes).
Conclusions: The combination of the 3 measures presented in this study seems to be a rapid and feasible screening mean for NCI in HIV-infected patients. This approach, combined with screening for potential comorbidities and daily functioning interference, could help in the initial stages of a HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder diagnosis and in settings with limited access to neuropsychological resources.