NEW STUDY SHOWS BRAIN SPECT IMAGING CAN OFTEN PREDATE ONSET OF DEMENTIA SYMPTOMS BY 7-10 YEARS
With Alzheimer’s disease approaching epidemic proportions and other forms of dementia likely to increase, researchers are studying the best ways to identify and treat the causes. A new study published in the journal CNS Spectrums, and conducted by Dr. Theodore Henderson, shows that brain SPECT neuroimaging is one of the most effective tools to diagnose dementia, and can often predate the onset of symptoms by 7-10 years.
The study, titled “The diagnosis and evaluation of dementia and mild cognitive impairment with emphasis on SPECT perfusion neuroimaging,” offers a thorough review of the diagnostic approaches to dementia. According to Daniel G. Amen, M.D., founder of Amen Clinics, Inc. “This is a study the medical and psychiatric community need to take note of as SPECT is one of the most practical tools to evaluate the risk for dementia.”
According to the report, as the world’s population ages so will the likelihood of dementia be on the rise. Over the next 15 years, roughly 32 million people will develop Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or dementia of some form and 156 million will have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a precursor to dementia.
Dr. Henderson, MD, PhD is President of the Colorado-based neuroimaging consulting firm, The Synaptic Space. In this comprehensive article (Volume 29, page 1-31), he reviewed the strengths and weaknesses of different forms of neuroimaging diagnostics of Alzheimer’s and dementias, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), perfusion single photon computed emission tomography (SPECT), fluoro-deoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET), and the newly developed amyloid markers for Alzheimer’s.
Moreover, Dr. Henderson wrote “neuroimaging may be particularly important in predicting the type of dementia that might develop, particularly if combined with protein markers obtained by lumbar puncture.”
Dr. Henderson also illustrates the value of quantitative analysis of brain scans over the more commonly applied “visual read.” Dr. Henderson said early diagnosis as the key, because it allows treatment while the burden of neuropathology remains small. This will become increasingly important as new therapeutics become available. He then demonstrated that perfusion SPECT neuroimaging with quantitative analysis can predict the progression of MCI to Alzheimer’s with a sensitivity of 84% and a specificity of 89%. FDG-PET studies with quantitative analysis can predict the same progression with a sensitivity of 89% and a specificity of 84%. Currently available amyloid markers, while promising, are exorbitantly expensive.
Dr. Henderson concluded that with the increasing financial encumbrances upon healthcare systems worldwide, expensive amyloid markers or neuroimaging dependent on a very small number of cyclotrons (amyloid, FDG) would be impractical. He encourages the use of SPECT with quantitative analysis as an affordable tool to diagnose and evaluate dementia and MCI worldwide without breaking the bank.