Objectives: (1) To investigate the prevalence and characteristics of agitation in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other forms of dementia; (2) to explore the association between agitation and other clinical variables, including disease severity, functional impairment and other neuropsychiatric symptoms, and (3) to determine the predictors of agitation. Methods: Data for 427 men and women with dementia from outpatient clinics of the University of California, Los Angeles Alzheimer’s Disease Center were analyzed. There were 277 patients with AD, 43 with vascular dementia, 47 with mixed dementia, 45 with frontotemporal dementia and 15 with dementia with Lewy bodies. Patients were evaluated with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI), Functional Activities Questionnaire (FAQ), neuropsychological tests and the Caregiver Appraisal instrument. SPSS10 was utilized for statistical analysis. Results: There was no difference in agitation subscale scores among patients with dementia of various etiologies. In patients with AD, there was increased prevalence of agitation with increasing dementia severity. Agitation contributed substantially to caregiver burden and impact. There was a significant correlation between the FAQ and the NPI agitation subscale score after adjusting for MMSE scores. Delusion, disinhibition and irritability subscale scores in AD patients were correlated with agitation across disease severity. Subscale scores of frontally mediated behaviors including irritability, delusions and disinhibition predicted most of the variance in agitation levels. Conclusion: Agitation is common in AD and other dementias and has a marked impact on caregivers. It is related to dementia severity and to specific types of associated psychopathology implicating frontal lobe dysfunction. The present study is the largest and most comprehensive assessment of agitation reported. The data suggest that agitation in AD is a frontal lobe syndrome. Frontal lobe dysfunction may predispose AD patients to agitation by exaggerating behavioral responses to many types of coexisting psychopathology or environmental provocations.
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