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SPECT imaging shows promise for accurate, early diagnosis of Alzheimer's

Reston, VA -- Alzheimer's disease (AD) currently afflicts approximately 4.5 million Americans. One of the most feared diseases of old age, AD robs its victims of their memories and personalities long before it takes their lives. Curing or slowing the progress of AD has been a high priority in the scientific community, but an early and accurate diagnosis is equally important given that several other forms of dementia display the same symptoms as AD, especially in the early stages.

A promising breakthrough in differentiating early-stage Alzheimer's disease from other forms of dementia, collectively known as frontotemporal disease (FTD), has been reported by researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (Dallas) in the May edition of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine (JNM). Using single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging, researchers found that AD patients exhibited reduced blood flow in the posterior cingulate cortex--an area of the brain that plays a part in orientation, sensory interpretation and vocabulary retention--very early in the course of their disease.

Recognizing this posterior cingulate sign gives doctors the ability to identify the onset of AD in patients significantly sooner than current methods. "We have cases where the first sign of Alzheimer's disease to appear in the patients was the posterior cingulate sign itself, accompanied by only the beginning symptoms of dementia," said Dr. Frederick J. Bonte, director of the Nuclear Medicine Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center and lead author of the brief communication to the JNM.

For this study, SPECT was used to measure blood flow in the posterior cingulate cortex. Three groups were studied: 20 patients diagnosed as probable AD, 20 diagnosed as probable FTD, and 20 normal elderly volunteers. The researchers found that 16 out of the 20 who were clinically diagnosed as having probable AD showed a restricted blood flow in the posterior cing
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Contact: Gavin McDonald
gmcdonald@kamber.com
202-955-1250
Society of Nuclear Medicine
5-May-2004


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