Amnesia differential diagnosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Zehra Malik, M.B.B.S[2]


The underlying etiology of memory loss must be differentiated on the basis of duration of memory loss, presence of anterograde amnesia or retrograde amnesia, associated features, and cognitive impairment.

Amnesia Differential Diagnosis

Diseases Differentiating Features
Duration of Amnesia Associated Features Cognitive Impairment
Post-traumatic amnesia[1] Varies Head Trauma Variable, depends on the extent of brain injury[2]
Dissociative Amnesia[3][4] Variable. Could last minutes, hours, or rarely even months or years Usually follows an incident that caused a lot of stress and trauma No cognitive impairment
Transient global amnesia[5] Less than 24hrs Brain ischemia, migraine, seizure, venous congestion, psychological trauma. No cognitive impairment
Drug-Induced Amnesia[6] Once drug is stopped, memory gradually regained Benzodiazepines No cognitive impairment
Neurological Amnesia Does not resolve, patient experiences progressive memory loss. Alzheimer's disease, Pick's disease, Parkinson's disease Progressive cognitive impairment
Transient epileptic amnesia[7] Episodic transient amnesia History of temporal lobe epilepsy No cognitive impairment
Age-Related Amnesia[8] Slow and progressive memory loss Diagnosis of exclusion No cognitive impairment


  1. Leclerc S, Lassonde M, Delaney JS, Lacroix VJ, Johnston KM (2001). "Recommendations for grading of concussion in athletes". Sports Med. 31 (8): 629–36. doi:10.2165/00007256-200131080-00007. PMID 11475324.
  2. Wortzel HS, Arciniegas DB (2012). "Treatment of post-traumatic cognitive impairments". Curr Treat Options Neurol. 14 (5): 493–508. doi:10.1007/s11940-012-0193-6. PMC 3437653. PMID 22865461.
  3. Bourget D, Whitehurst L (2007). "Amnesia and crime". J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 35 (4): 469–80. PMID 18086739.
  4. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders : DSM-5
  5. Profice P, Rizzello V, Pennestrì F, Pilato F, Della Marca G, Sestito A; et al. (2008). "Transient global amnesia during transoesophageal echocardiogram". Neurol Sci. 29 (6): 477–9. doi:10.1007/s10072-008-1034-y. PMID 19031042.
  6. Amnesia is anterograde from the time the drug was introduced and patient has impairment in forming new memories. It is reversible upon discontinuation of the drug.
  7. Zeman AZ, Boniface SJ, Hodges JR (1998). "Transient epileptic amnesia: a description of the clinical and neuropsychological features in 10 cases and a review of the literature". J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 64 (4): 435–43. doi:10.1136/jnnp.64.4.435. PMC 2170058. PMID 9576532.
  8. Waldemar G, Dubois B, Emre M, Georges J, McKeith IG, Rossor M; et al. (2007). "Recommendations for the diagnosis and management of Alzheimer's disease and other disorders associated with dementia: EFNS guideline". Eur J Neurol. 14 (1): e1–26. doi:10.1111/j.1468-1331.2006.01605.x. PMID 17222085.

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