The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is often used for cognitive screening across health care settings, especially in rehabilitation centers, where assessment and treatment of cognitive function is considered key for successful multidisciplinary treatment. Although the original MoCA validation study suggested a cut score of <26 to identify cognitive impairment, recent studies have suggested that lower cut scores should be applied.
To examine the percentage of positive screens for cognitive impairment using the MoCA in a veteran postacute care (PAC) rehabilitation setting and to identify the most accurate MoCA cut score based on criterion neuropsychological measures.
We obtained data from 81 veterans with diverse medical diagnoses who had completed the MoCA during their admission to a PAC unit. A convenience subsample of 50 veterans had also completed four criterion neuropsychological measures.
Depending on the cut score used, the percentage of individuals classified as impaired based on MoCA performance varied widely, ranging from 6.2% to 92.6%. When predicting performance using a more comprehensive battery of criterion neuropsychological tests, we identified <22 as the most accurate MoCA cut score to identify a clinically relevant level of impairment and <24 to identify milder cognitive impairment.
Our findings suggest that a MoCA cut score of <26 carries a risk of misdiagnosis of cognitive impairment, and scores in the range of <22 to <24 are more reliable for identifying cognitive impairment.