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PET scan distinguishes Alzheimer's from other dementia
Date:11/1/2007

SALT LAKE CITY A PET scan (positron emission tomography) that measures uptake of sugar in the brain significantly improves the accuracy of diagnosing a type of dementia often mistaken for Alzheimers disease, a study led by a University of Utah dementia expert has found.

The scan, FDG-PET, helped six doctors from three national Alzheimers disease centers correctly diagnose frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and Alzheimers in almost 90 percent of cases in the studyan improvement of as much as 14 percent from usual clinical diagnostic methods. FDG stands for fluorodeoxyglucose, a short-lived radioactive form of sugar injected into people during PET scans to show activity levels in different parts of the brain. In Alzheimers, low activity is mostly in the back part of the brain; in FTD, low activity is mostly in the front of the brain.

FDG-PET is an especially powerful tool in early treatment of FTD, said the studys lead author, Norman L. Foster, M.D., professor of neurology and director of the Center for Alzheimers Care, Imaging and Research at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

FTD is a common cause of early onset dementia among people 45-64 years old and is marked by behavioral changes and language difficulties. Like Alzheimers, it can take years to develop and, for now, is incurable. Although FTD is a separate disorder, it often meets clinical diagnostic criteria for Alzheimers and often is misdiagnosed even by dementia experts.

Early diagnosis of FTD can have a tremendous impact on the treatment for patients and their family members. Many patients are misdiagnosed and may be hospitalized and receive drugs for the wrong disease, Foster said. Accurate diagnosis bypasses the costs, side-effects, and frustration of misguided care. Furthermore, one-third of FTD patients have a family history of a similar disorder and family members need to know if they are at increased risk of the disease.

The study was funded by
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Contact: Phil Sahm
phil.sahm@hsc.utah.edu
801-581-2517
University of Utah Health Sciences Center
Source:Eurekalert

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