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Neurocognitive disorder

Definition

Neurocognitive disorder is a general term that describes decreased mental function due to a medical disease other than a psychiatric illness. It is often used synonymously (but incorrectly) with dementia.

Alternative Names

Organic mental disorder (OMS); Organic brain syndrome

Causes

Listed below are conditions associated with neurocognitive disorder.

BRAIN INJURY CAUSED BY TRAUMA

BREATHING CONDITIONS

  • Low oxygen in the body (hypoxia)
  • High carbon dioxide level in the body (hypercapnia)

CARDIOVASCULAR DISORDERS

DEGENERATIVE DISORDERS

DEMENTIA DUE TO METABOLIC CAUSES

DRUG AND ALCOHOL-RELATED CONDITIONS

INFECTIONS

  • Any sudden onset (acute) or long-term (chronic) infection
  • Blood poisoning (septicemia)
  • Brain infection (encephalitis)
  • Meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord)
  • Prion infections, such as mad cow disease
  • Late-stage syphilis

Complications of cancer can also lead to neurocognitive disorder.

Other conditions that may mimic organic brain syndrome include:

Symptoms

Symptoms can differ based on the disease. In general, organic brain syndromes cause:

Exams and Tests

Tests depend on the disorder, but may include:

Treatment

Treatment depends on the underlying condition. Many conditions are treated mainly with rehabilitation and supportive care to help the person with activities lost due to areas where brain function is affected.

Medicines may be needed to reduce aggressive behaviors that can occur with some of the conditions.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Some disorders are short-term and treatable. But many are long-term or get worse over time.

Possible Complications

People with neurocognitive disorder often lose the ability to interact with others or function on their own.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have been diagnosed with organic brain syndrome and you are uncertain about the exact disorder.
  • You have symptoms of this condition.
  • You have been diagnosed with neurocognitive disorder and your symptoms become worse.

References

Beck BJ, Tompkins KJ. Mental disorders due to another medical condition. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 21.

Douglas VC, Josephson SA. Dementia and systemic disease. In: Aminoff MJ, ed. Aminoff's Neurology and General Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2014:chap 61.

Review Date:2/27/2016
Reviewed By:Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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