Patterns of syphilis testing in the elderly

Bruce J. Naughton*, Maureen Brady Moran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective:To evaluate the frequency of inconsistencies in the use of laboratory tests for syphilis among the elderly in an acute care setting. Design:Retrospective medical record review. Setting:Academic medical center. Patients/participants:All patients 60 years of age and older who had: 1) positive tests for syphilis and no lumbar puncture performed (n=71), 2) lumbar punctures performed and no positive test for syphilis (n=68), and 3) positive tests for syphilis and lumbar punctures performed (n=8). Interventions:None. Measurements and main results:The chronology and results of syphilis tests were abstracted from the medical records. Documentation of signs and symptoms of neurosyphilis, including dementia and depression, were abstracted from the medical records by a second reviewer. Most patients had inadequate evaluations; 51 had no follow-up of positive syphilis tests and 43 had cerebrospinal fluid syphilis tests in the absence of positive blood tests for syphilis or signs and symptoms of neurosyphilis. Conclusions:The inconsistent pattern of serologic testing in this study suggests that the testing was done as a routine procedure and not for a specific purpose. For a majority of the tested individuals, the results did not provide a public health benefit or contribute to the individual's well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-275
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 1992


  • aged
  • dementia
  • practice patterns
  • syphilis serodiagnosis
  • testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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