Paving the way for better, faster and more comprehensive Alzheimer’s screening has been the focus of much research and study. The results of a new analysis by the University of California show that the tool to help see signs of the disease earlier is already available to medical professionals. Unfortunately, since the particular test isn’t routinely covered by Medicare, it’s not being used to its greatest potential.
Amyloid PET scans, however, may lead to earlier treatment and the possible preservation of cognitive function in as many as one-sixth of patients, researchers have concluded. Amyloid PET scans are designed to detect a protein commonly found in the brains of Alzheimer patients. This protein was once only detectable through autopsies, but recent advanced in neuroimaging have enabled greater insights while patients are alive and treatment options remain available.
To arrive at their findings, researchers used data from to separate studies – the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative study and the Metabolic Cerebral Imaging in Incipient Dementia study. What researchers found was that an estimated 40 percent of patients who had amyloid PET scans after indeterminate traditional FDG-PET scans were able to receive Alzheimer’s disease medications earlier than patients who did not. Of that percentage, about 17 percent witnessed significant cognitive function preservation.
Amyloid scans are not routinely recommended for patients who have indeterminate FDG-PET scans, but the hope is the new analysis may soon change this. Alzheimer’s disease is not “curable,” so to say, but doctors have tools available that may help delay and prevent some of its associated cognitive loss. When amyloid scans are positive for the signs of Alzheimer’s earlier intervention is more likely to proceed.
People who are concerned about signs of dementia in themselves or loved ones are urged to receive advice from qualified medical professionals. Early detection may pave the way for more effective treatments.