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Validation of consensus panel diagnosis in dementia.

  • Author(s): Gabel, Matthew J;
  • Foster, Norman L;
  • Heidebrink, Judith L;
  • Higdon, Roger;
  • Aizenstein, Howard J;
  • Arnold, Steven E;
  • Barbas, Nancy R;
  • Boeve, Bradley F;
  • Burke, James R;
  • Clark, Christopher M;
  • Dekosky, Steven T;
  • Farlow, Martin R;
  • Jagust, William J;
  • Kawas, Claudia H;
  • Koeppe, Robert A;
  • Leverenz, James B;
  • Lipton, Anne M;
  • Peskind, Elaine R;
  • Turner, R Scott;
  • Womack, Kyle B;
  • Zamrini, Edward Y
  • et al.


The clinical diagnosis of dementing diseases largely depends on the subjective interpretation of patient symptoms. Consensus panels are frequently used in research to determine diagnoses when definitive pathologic findings are unavailable. Nevertheless, research on group decision making indicates that many factors can adversely affect panel performance.


To determine conditions that improve consensus panel diagnosis.


Comparison of neuropathologic diagnoses with individual and consensus panel diagnoses based on clinical scenarios only, fludeoxyglucose F 18 positron emission tomography images only, and scenarios plus images.


Expert and trainee individual and consensus panel deliberations using a modified Delphi method in a pilot research study of the diagnostic utility of fludeoxyglucose F 18 positron emission tomography.


Forty-five patients with pathologically confirmed Alzheimer disease or frontotemporal dementia.

Main outcome measures

Statistical measures of diagnostic accuracy, agreement, and confidence for individual raters and panelists before and after consensus deliberations.


The consensus protocol using trainees and experts surpassed the accuracy of individual expert diagnoses when clinical information elicited diverse judgments. In these situations, consensus was 3.5 times more likely to produce positive rather than negative changes in the accuracy and diagnostic certainty of individual panelists. A rule that forced group consensus was at least as accurate as majority and unanimity rules.


Using a modified Delphi protocol to arrive at a consensus diagnosis is a reasonable substitute for pathologic information. This protocol improves diagnostic accuracy and certainty when panelist judgments differ and is easily adapted to other research and clinical settings while avoiding the potential pitfalls of group decision making.

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