Reliability of Nationwide Prevalence Estimates of Dementia: A Critical Appraisal Based on Brazilian Surveys

F Chaimowicz, Lex Burdorf

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Abstract

Background The nationwide dementia prevalence is usually calculated by applying the results of local surveys to countries' populations. To evaluate the reliability of such estimations in developing countries, we chose Brazil as an example. We carried out a systematic review of dementia surveys, ascertained their risk of bias, and present the best estimate of occurrence of dementia in Brazil. Methods and Findings We carried out an electronic search of PubMed, Latin-American databases, and a Brazilian thesis database for surveys focusing on dementia prevalence in Brazil. The systematic review was registered at PROSPERO (CRD42014008815). Among the 35 studies found, 15 analyzed population-based random samples. However, most of them utilized inadequate criteria for diagnostics. Six studies without these limitations were further analyzed to assess the risk of selection, attrition, outcome and population bias as well as several statistical issues. All the studies presented moderate or high risk of bias in at least two domains due to the following features: high non-response, inaccurate cut-offs, and doubtful accuracy of the examiners. Two studies had limited external validity due to high rates of illiteracy or low income. The three studies with adequate generalizability and the lowest risk of bias presented a prevalence of dementia between 7.1% and 8.3% among subjects aged 65 years and older. However, after adjustment for accuracy of screening, the best available evidence points towards a figure between 15.2% and 16.3%. Conclusions The risk of bias may strongly limit the generalizability of dementia prevalence estimates in developing countries. Extrapolations that have already been made for Brazil and Latin America were based on a prevalence that should have been adjusted for screening accuracy or not used at all due to severe bias. Similar evaluations regarding other developing countries are needed in order to verify the scope of these limitations.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalPLoS One (print)
Volume10
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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