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On March 9, 2015, Posted by , In Alzheimer's Disease, By ,, , With Comments Off on Errand Services in Macomb County, MI

Coming Soon: A Definitive Alzheimer’s Screening Test

Doctors may finally have a definitive way of determining whether a person who is experiencing memory loss and other hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer’s actually has the degenerative brain disease, according to a recent article in USA Today.

Currently, an irrefutable diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is only possible by autopsy. When doctors diagnose a living person with Alzheimer’s they conduct mental and physical exams to rule out all other possible causes of the symptoms, not to confirm the presence of Alzheimer’s.

However, a combination of the recent discovery of the Alzheimer’s biomarker, beta-amyloid protein, and a PET scan that is capable of detecting the presence of this protein, allows for the possibility that doctors soon will be able to make a conclusive Alzheimer’s diagnosis while the patient is still alive.

The scan

A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is a common diagnostic test that allows doctors to examine the functioning of different organs and areas of the body.

Research has shown that a normal PET scan of the brain, supplemented by an injectable tracing agent that is designed to stick to clusters of amyloid protein, can alert doctors to the build-up of the brain-damaging plaque characteristic in cases of Alzheimer’s and thus lead to a diagnosis of the disease.

According to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, as many as one in five people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s don’t actually have the disease. After they have passed on and an autopsy has been performed, it was found that they lacked the plaque build-up that is common in Alzheimer’s disease.

Furthermore, the Fisher Center asserts that early manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease are currently misdiagnosed by doctors in approximately 33% of cases.

The new plaque-detecting PET scan will aim to lower this incidence of missed and mistaken diagnosis.


While this scan is not likely to be helpful for the 5.4 million people that, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, are currently stricken with Alzheimer’s, it does represent a significant step in the direction of developing better treatment options for the disease.

Right now there is no available therapy that can effectively halt or reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Things like medication, physical therapy, rehabilitation, iPod therapy, and art therapy have been shown to help an elderly dementia sufferer maintain their physical and mental functionality for as long as possible, but none of these therapies represents a cure.

However, doctors hold out hope that, if they can catch the disease earlier, they may be able to concoct more successful treatment plans that will change this fact.


The researchers involved in the studies that led to the development and testing of this scan are currently trying to get the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be able to put the scans to use in doctors’ offices across the country as early as this year.

However, they are encountering some resistance.

While the FDA admitted that the scan was effective and safe, they and other doctors are skeptical about the true usefulness of the scan in a clinical setting.

Some questions being raised include; what will the interpretation guidelines for the scans be? In other words, how will doctors make the distinction between a positive test and a negative test?

Furthermore, additional research on a greater number of people must be done for the FDA to feel that the results of the scan will be precise for all elderly patients.

Experts at the Alzheimer’s Association are of the opinion that the scan can be helpful in certain situations but not others. For instance, a positive scan, confirming the presence of amyloid plaque, does not mean that a person definitely has Alzheimer’s. The plaque build-up could be due to something else.

Conversely, a negative scan would be useful only so far as to remove Alzheimer’s from the list of possible reasons for an elder’s memory loss and altered behavior.

Without a helpful therapy in place to help cure those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, some experts see no distinct benefit to using the scan as anything but a research instrument, at least for the time being.


Contact Pure Home Care Services at (586) 293-2457 today! If you live in Macomb County or the surrounding area, we can help you care for your loved ones.

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