Researchers believe combining the use of two imaging systems along with a biomarker diagnostic test can more precisely--and correctly--diagnose patients with mild or early cases of Alzheimer's.
The Duke University finding dovetails nicely with the drug industry's shift toward developing treatments that attack the disease in its early stages. And so the finding is a big deal. If, on the medical equipment and diagnostics side, clinicians can pinpoint early-onset Alzheimer's before it does major damage, then those patients become ideal candidates for new trials of drugs meant to counter the disease before it advances too far.
The Duke study, detailed in the journal Radiology and highlighted nicely at PsychCentral.com, explored the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), fluorine 18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) and cerebrospinal fluid analysis together to help diagnose Alzheimer's, along with various clinical cognitive testing.
For the trial, older patients with different levels of cognitive impairment underwent clinical cognitive testing, plus MRI, FDG-PET scans and also the cerebrospinal fluid analysis, and then had regular doctor checkups up to four years later, according to the PsychCentral.com story. What they found was that the use of clinical cognitive testing alone, such as neuropsychological testing, along with other clinical knowledge, produced a misdiagnosis rate above 41%. But the combined troika of tests made that misclassification number plunge to 28.4%.
More testing is on the way to determine how to best use the three tests in an everyday Alzheimer's diagnostics protocol.
First U.S. patient tests DBS device for Alzheimer's
Software tool could produce early Alzheimer's diagnosis