Criteria for solvent-induced chronic toxic encephalopathy: a systematic review

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In 1985, a WHO Working Group presented diagnostic criteria and a classification for solvent-induced chronic toxic encephalopathy (CTE). In the same year, the “Workshop on neurobehavioral effects of solvents” in Raleigh, N.C., USA introduced a somewhat different classification for CTE. The objective of this review is to study the diagnostic procedures that are used to establish the diagnosis of CTE, and the extent to which the diagnostic criteria and classification of the WHO, and the classification of the Raleigh Working Group, are applied. A systematic search of studies on CTE was performed, and the diagnostic criteria and use of the WHO and Raleigh classifications were listed. We retrieved 30 original articles published in English from 1985 to 1998, in which CTE was diagnosed. Only two articles did not report the duration of solvent exposure. The type of solvent(s) involved was described in detail in four articles, poorly in 17 articles, and not at all in nine articles. Tests of general intelligence were used in 19 articles, and tests of both attention and mental flexibility and of learning and memory were used in 18 articles. Exclusion, by interview, of potentially confounding conditions, such as somatic diseases with central nervous effects and psychiatric diseases, was reported in 21 and 16 articles, respectively. In only six of the articles were both the WHO diagnostic criteria and the WHO or Raleigh classifications used. In the future, parameters of exposure, psychological test results, and use of medication that possibly affects psychological test results should always be described. We list some advantages and disadvantages of the Raleigh and WHO classifications. To aid inter-study comparisons, the diagnosis of CTE should be categorized and reported according to an internationally accepted classification.