Application of formal mental status testing in the emergency department (ED) to assess cognitive function has been hampered by the lack of a rapidly applied instrument. An Abbreviated Mental Status Examination (AMSE) with 10 test items that can be administered within five minutes by nursing personnel is described. Evaluation of the instrument on 296 ambulatory ED patients with grossly normal neurologic function showed that 93% of patients had a total score of seven or more correct answers and 83% of patients had eight or more correct answers. Application of the AMSE to 375 acute drug overdose patients at the same hospital showed a significant correlation with Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score. An AMSE score of seven or less was found to be more sensitive than a GCS score of 13 or less for admission to the intensive care unit (ICU) and complications in the ICU (P less than 0.001). The AMSE score may serve as a useful tool for stratifying cognitive function in acute drug overdose patients and for identifying patients at increased risk for an adverse outcome from their overdose.
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