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PET Scans Helpful, But Not Definitive for Alzheimer's Diagnosis
Date:1/28/2013

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- While there's still no definitive means of diagnosing Alzheimer's disease in living patients, PET scan technology may help suggest the onset of the disease. Now, experts are issuing new guidance on which patients might stand to benefit most from the expensive scans.

Amyloid brain plaque is considered one hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. With PET (positron emission tomography) imaging, amyloid can be identified while patients are still alive.

According to the guidelines, people who should be considered for a scan include the following:

  • People with persistent or progressive unexplained memory problems or confusion and those with problems on standard tests of thought and memory.
  • People with possible Alzheimer's, but whose symptoms don't present in the usual way.
  • People with progressive dementia before age 65.

On the other hand, PET amyloid scanning is not appropriate for people over 65 who are already known to have Alzheimer's, the guidelines say. Moreover, people who do not have any symptoms or with little medical evidence to support a diagnosis will not benefit from the scan.

The finding of brain amyloid in itself does not constitute a diagnosis of Alzheimer's dementia, the guidelines emphasize. It's just one tool to be used along with information from the patient's history and clinical examination.

"Amyloid imaging is not for every patient with Alzheimer's disease or with memory problems or even the 'worried well,'" said Maria Carrillo, vice president for medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer's Association and guideline co-author.

Developed jointly by the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging and the Alzheimer's Association, the guidelines were published online Jan. 28 in Alzheimer's & Dementia. The task force reviewed scientific literature and
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