Can We Predict Alzheimer’s?

A new PET Scan, utilizing an isotope that shows deposition of amyloid in the brain, has been approved by the FDA. Unfortunately, it is not covered by Medicare, and patients must pay “cash.” In a recent clinical trial, presented at an Alzheimer’s conference, patients with mild cognitive impairment who tested positive on the scan were 5 times more likely to convert to Alzheimer’s dementia within 3 years than patients who were amyloid-negative. Keep in mind that up to one-third of patients over the age of 65 who have no cognitive symptoms or deficits test positive for amyloid. If, however, the patient tests negative, Alzheimer’s can be ruled out as the cause, and the focus should be on finding other conditions which may be more easily treatable. Early diagnosis is better in that patients and families can be counseled for estate planning, end-of-life issues, advance directives, powers of attorney while the patient is competent to make decisions.

Jack Florin, MD

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