Capital Institute for Neurosciences

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New Test Aids in Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Dr. G. Peter GliebusFor patients concerned about Alzheimer’s disease, a new test is helping diagnose the disease.

Offered as part of the diagnostic capabilities at Capital Health’s Capital Institute for Neurosciences, the test is used in conjunction with other tests to provide a clearer picture of what is, or is not, causing cognitive impairment and dementia, or memory problems.

“Brain amyloid imaging helps us identify if there is a build-up of beta amyloid plaques in the brain, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Peter Gliebus, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Disorders Program at the Capital Institute for Neurosciences.

“While we don’t rely on it exclusively when working to determine the cause of a patient’s cognitive impairment or dementia, it is an additional tool we have in our toolbox,” he said.

In addition to neurological and cognitive assessments done by a specialist in cognitive disorders, such as Dr. Gliebus, assessment for Alzheimer’s disease often includes an MRI or CT scan, which are used to rule out other conditions that could be causing symptoms. Specific proteins, including amyloid, can also be checked in the spinal fluid when trying to clarify the diagnosis.

Amyloid imaging uses a tracer, or radioactive fluorine, which is detected during a PET (positron emission tomography) scan, to highlight the beta-amyloid plaques.

While having beta-amyloid plaque does not necessarily mean someone has Alzheimer’s disease, its absence tends to point to other causes of cognitive problems.

“Too many people die annually from Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Gliebus. “We have to use everything at our disposal to help diagnose people earlier.”

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