PET scan predicts Alzheimer's more accurately

Scanning a patient's brain metabolism with positron-emission tomography (PET) can improve a doctor's ability to forecast the patient's future cognitive functions by up to 30 percent, a new UCLA study discovered. Published in the November issue of the journal Molecular Genetics and Metabolism, the findings suggest that PET may offer physicians a new tool to help with earlier diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

The study showed that use of a PET scan sharply increased the ability of physicians to predict whether the condition of patients with early memory complaints would significantly worsen in the years after their initial examination.

"Adding PET to the diagnostic evaluation of patients with mild cognitive changes can improve our accuracy in predicting what will happen to them in the future and enhance our ability to intervene earlier," said Dr. Dan Silverman, associate director of imaging at the UCLA Alzheimer's Disease Center and assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Silverman and his colleagues studied the results of PET scans performed between 1991 and 1999 on 167 UCLA patients being evaluated by their neurologists for mild cognitive complaints, such as memory loss, behavioral changes and changes in language ability. The average age of the patients was 66.

A PET scan images the brain for a metabolic pattern indicative of progressive dementia. Based on the PET scan results, the UCLA researchers predicted each of the 167 patients' future cognitive abilities. The research team then compared those predictions to the neurologists' original clinical diagnoses and to patients' cognitive conditions two to 10 years after their initial evaluation.

According to Silverman, the accuracy of the prognoses significantly increased when doctors took the PET scan results into account.

"Adding PET substantially boosted how often physicia

Contact: Elaine Schmidt
University of California - Los Angeles

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